Review: The Man Who Would be Sherlock by Christopher Sandford

I found this book a challenge to review. The problem, as with so many books in this field, is that it has been done before but that doesn't make it a bad book.

George Edalji
Sandford's book concerns Conan Doyle's excursions into the world of true crime. Inevitably, it predominantly dwells on two cases - those of George Edalji and Oscar Slater. Between them, these two cases account for over 50% of the book. They are also the events that have caused a lot of other authors to put pen to paper (including yours truly).

Beyond the aforementioned events, the Chicken Run murder also features as do some crimes that Conan Doyle encountered when travelling outside the UK on his Spiritualist lecture tours.

Chicken Run murderer Norman Thorne and magician Harry Houdini
Perhaps surprisingly, a considerable amount of time is spent on Conan Doyle's Spiritualist work and his run-ins with Harry Houdini. Sandford has covered this ground before, albeit in greater detail, so some of his work in this area will be familiar if you've read his earlier work. However, here this is used as background material in connection with Conan Doyle's ideas about the use of mediums in the solving of crime. Mention of the Cottingley Fairies is harder to justify but I guess it is very easy to talk about how credulous Conan Doyle was in such matters if you lean on the fairies as an example. As a means to this end their inclusion makes sense.

If you are a student of Conan Doyle's life you're likely to have read a good deal about the likes of Edalji and Slater so you may be wondering what you'll get out of Sandford's book. Therein lies my problem. I thoroughly enjoyed the book but I'm not sure I can say it will add a huge amount to what is already known. It adds for sure but I'm not sure you'll miss the extra nuggets if you don't get the book. I'm still very glad I bought it and if you have no books in this area - go for it.

Written by Alistair Duncan Buy my books here

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