Sherlock Book Reviews - The Criminal World Of Sherlock Holmes - Volume One
Posted by Steve Emecz on
Bootmakers of Toronto
This is the first installment of a three-volume collection on crime and criminals in the Canon and beyond. Volume 1 explores early European criminologists and their work in such areas as profiling, toxicology and fingerprinting. Also examined is the influence of emerging forensic science on the studies, early investigations and methods of Sherlock Holmes. This includes delving into real-life criminals – notorious murderers, burglars and poisoners – mentioned in the stories or who otherwise influenced the tales.
While the focus is on the Canon, some of Conan Doyle’s other writing is referenced for their criminal elements. Poison, including opium, is a recurring theme in several chapters. Likewise, Jack the Ripper is another subject that keeps cropping up. ACD’s interest in the Whitechapel murders is looked at, along with newspaper coverage of the ongoing police investigation, and discussion of the most likely suspects. The book includes reference materials that serve as a handy quick guide to Canonical crime. These lists and indices include victims, wrongdoers, and criminal investigation terms used in the stories. In addition, the volume has an introduction by Mark Alberstat, co-editor of Canadian Holmes. While illegal acts and criminology are Jones’s focus, he does touch on a wide range of Victorian-era social issues. These include attitudes toward women, pornography, prostitution and family violence Jones’s enthusiasm for all things Sherlockian and Doylean is on display in this opening volume of the series. New and longstanding fans of the detective and ACD will be informed, entertained, and maybe even horrified by the depth and breadth of criminal deeds put under the microscope here.
Kelvin Jones is a Sherlockian legend. I first ran across his name in the 1980’s, when his scholarly monographs were on my yearly Christmas lists. Following his numerous masterful analyses of various specialized topics, he turned his attention to writing Holmes pastiche – which particularly caught my interest. But he never stopped his pursuit of the scholarly side of Sherlockiana, as shown in The Criminal World of Sherlock Holmes.
This volume is a scrapbook of a plethora of Sherlockian topics – illustrations, lists, and essays – all dealing with the criminal side of The Canon. We have criminals, and methods, and victims. This book wonderfully displays Kelvin Jones’ passion for and mastery of the World of Holmes.
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Kelvin I. Jones has been writing about Sherlock Holmes for over 50 years, and studied the real-life crime, criminals and criminalistics of the late Victorians. Kelvin's forensic approach has already made a significant impact on the Holmes aficionado, previous titles including 'The Sherlock Holmes Murder Files,' etc. However, the first of this three volume magnum opus on Holmes and crime covers absolutely everything that the reader fresh to, or even more familiar with Holmes wants to know about the murder and mayhem of his age.
And there is much more. We learn about the poisoners, the prostitutes, the garrotters, the psychopaths and the abductors; in fact the whole panoply of the dangerous criminal underworld once lorded over by Moriarty.
This exhaustive study, with its grim descriptions of the savage criminals of that age, is portrayed in graphic, uncompromising detail. What also emerges is a profile of the real Conan Doyle. Here is a profile of an author who knew more than is assumed about crime; and the book includes an examination of the Ripper, plus Conan Doyle's theories on the murderer's identity. Profusely illustrated, with many rare illustrations from 19th Century documents. Overall, a stunning contribution to the literature about Holmes, by someone who David Marcum, the editor and author of Holmes pastiches, once described as 'a Master Sherlockian.'