The Life and Death of Sherlock Holmes

Written by Mattias Boström Michael Gallagher (trans.)
Review by Edward James

This is not a Sherlock Holmes pastiche nor a fictional biography of the fictional detective. This is a non-fiction book about Sherlock Holmes as a brand, or should we say a legend? The UK title is misleading, because of course the legend has never died.

The first four of the book’s eight parts cover the life of Holmes’s creator, Arthur Conan Doyle, and how he came to write and market his brainchild. Famously he also tried to kill him but was forced to resurrect him by popular demand.

After Arthur’s death in 1930, the task of managing the legend fell firstly to his widow, who never made a decision without consulting her late husband via her Spiritualist medium, then to her two quarrelling sons and finally her daughter, who died in 1998. The copyright has now expired and it is a free-for-all.

Bostrom covers every aspect of the legend; books, theatre, radio, TV, the Internet, and the whole Sherlockian world of clubs, societies and spin-offs. I am not a Sherlockian, but I found this a fascinating account of an astonishing literary phenomenon.