Review of A Few Lessons from Sherlock Holmes by Margaret Whitmer.

Posted by Steve Emecz on

"This is a slim, 80-page volume that culls the essence of the Great Detective’s teachings and sorts them into categories and quotes of a paragraph or less. It follows the same style as Bevelin’s previous book, “Seeking Wisdom: From Darwin to Munger,” a very popular how-to for investors, now in its third edition.  

Bevelin has done for Holmes what he did for business moguls like Charles Munger and Warren Buffett in previous books. He demonstrates what students of the Holmes saga have always known: That the adventures of the fictional sleuth are not just entertaining tales, but a road map on how to think, to do research and to hit upon a solution to a problem, whether it pertains to crime or not.

“Like the scientist trying to solve a mystery of nature, Holmes first gathered all the evidence he could that was relevant to his problem,” mathematics and science writer Martin Gardner is quoted in the book. “At times, he performed experiments to obtain fresh data. He then surveyed the total evidence in the light of his vast knowledge of crime and/or sciences relevant to crime, to arrive at the most probable hypothesis. Deductions were made…then the theory further tested against new evidence, revised if need be, until finally the truth emerged with a probability close to certainty.”

This method is used not only by scientists, but by anyone seeking to problem-solve in any field, including business and medicine. Holmes’ maxims are compared to those of other real-life logical observers and thinkers, including his model, Dr. Joseph Bell of Edinburgh; and to English scientist Francis Bacon, to French physiologist Claude Bernard and to others. Doyle himself stated: “The general lines of reasoning advocated by Holmes have a real, practical application to life.”

So much wisdom is packed into this small book it would be impossible to distill it into a brief review.  But everyone’s favorite maxims are there, such as, “Eliminate all other factors and whatever remains must be the truth,” (from The Sign of Four) and “Like all other arts, the science of deduction and analysis is one which can only be acquired by long and patient study, nor is life long enough to allow any mortal to attain the highest possible perfection in it” (from A Study in Scarlet). 

In conclusion, I would recommend this book to anyone – Holmes enthusiast or not – who might benefit from a primer on systematized common sense." Reviewed by: Margaret Whitmer, June, 2013.

A Few Lessons from Sherlock Holmes is available from all good bookstores including Amazon USAAmazon UKWaterstones UK, and for free shipping worldwide Book Depository. In ebook format it is in Amazon KindleKoboNook and Apple iBooks (iPad/iPhone).


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