The Man Who Created Sherlock Holmes: The Life and Times of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Written by Andrew Lycett
Review by Alana White

As the first biographer to gain access to Arthur Conan Doyle’s newly released personal archive, Andrew Lycett draws a captivating picture of the complex man who created the brilliant, egotistical, and scientifically minded Sherlock Holmes. At the heart of Lycett’s work is the central paradox of Doyle’s life, the creation of one of literature’s most popular characters, “the quintessentially rational Sherlock Holmes,” by a man who was part of the spiritualist movement sweeping America and England in the 19th century.

Born in Edinburgh in 1859 into an affluent family of artists and writers, having survived his father’s alcoholism and near poverty, Doyle earned a Bachelor of Medicine degree and eventually had his own family while struggling to publish novels and short stories in the face of countless rejections. Highly entertaining and informative throughout, I found the pages devoted to the genesis of detective stories (Dickens’s Inspector Bucket in Bleak House (1853) and Wilkie Collins’s Sgt. Cuff in The Moonstone (1868)) and the impact of scientific discoveries relative to police work (the use of fingerprints to apprehend criminals, photography at the scene of the crime) and Doyle’s ruminations on how to utilize these in fiction, giving birth to the first Holmes’ story, A Study in Scarlet (published in 1886) especially fascinating. All in all, an excellent work.