The History of Deduction
In this book, a treat for Sherlock Holmes nerds, author Michael Sims delves deeply into every clue from Arthur Conan Doyle’s life, searching for what led to the creation of the world’s most famous fictional detective.
The book begins as a novel, set in Doyle’s unremarkable Portsmouth residence, but soon enough settles into the style of a biography. We learn of Doyle’s childhood: of his talented but alcoholic father, of his grey-eyed mother who converted their family residence into a boarding house to make ends meet, and their love for the poet Oliver Wendell Holmes. But it’s Joseph Bell, Doyle’s teacher at Edinburgh University—a remarkable diagnostician who can tell a patient’s illness, trade and history simply by looking at them—who turns out to be the model for the brilliant detective.
Somewhat to the book’s detriment however, as it traces Doyle’s career from the publication of the first Sherlock novel (A Study in Scarlet) to his renown as one of England’s most beloved authors, we hear less about Doyle’s personal life and more about the publishing world of the late 1900s.
While seeing what’s behind the curtain may dispel Holmes’ mystique somewhat, this is a fascinating addition to the collection—especially for geeky know-it-alls who flaunt the complete works of Arthur Conan Doyle.
Arthur & Sherlock: Conan Doyle and the Creation of Holmes by Michael Sims Published by Bloomsbury USA Pages: 256; Price: Rs 374