Every Sunday we like to focus on a theme or author - this Sunday we're looking at books featuring Holmes and serial killers. We've included a short interview with Orlando Pearson about his fascinating book where Holmes and Watson tackle a real-life serial killer in Berlin. There are a few related to Jack The Ripper (naturally) as well as Margaret Walsh's latest out this week (Perplexed Politician) - Margaret specialises in Holmes vs serial killers so we've included two of hers.
Please pick up to five - if you'd like them all please state 'All 6 please!'
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Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Perplexed Politician (brand new, out this week)
Interview with Orlando Pearson
Tell us a bit about the Killer you feature in Dark Arts, Dark Acts?
The S-Bahn (Schnellbahn or Quick railway) is the network of mainly overground railway services in an around Berlin. My serial killer, who became known as the S-Bahn Killer, operated on the south-eastern part of the network in the winter of 1940/1941. He also operated in the allotments in the same area. He was helped in his work by the fact that Berlin was blacked out against British air-raids at this time.
His victims were mainly women who were working nightshifts. He was a prolific murderer and, as well as numerous assaults, he murdered eight women – more than Jack the Ripper in London.
How was the actual investigation conducted?
Germany, like Great Britain, was heavily dependent on female labour for its war-effort, but the investigation had peculiarities of its own.
The Germans were desperate find the killer but also to avoid alarming women using the trains who might then be put off from working in the factories at night. If you add the preconception that the killer was a spy, a Jew, or a foreigner – Berlin was full of foreign workers filling the gaps caused by German men being on military service) – and that the killings were taking place in the black-out, you can imagine how difficult the investigation became.
It is no wonder that the Germans engaged Sherlock Holmes as a consulting detective on the matter.
But if Holmes is helping the Germans investigate a serial killer in 1940/41, wasn’t he helping the German war effort?
Holmes and Great Britain had rational motives for helping with the investigation which the book explores.
Why did you pick this killer for Holmes to go up against?
The idea was suggested to me by a neighbour who takes an interest in my work.
I am a German speaker, a Sherlock Holmes fan, and an eager student of history, so having Holmes investigate a murder spree in war-time Germany was always going to appeal to me.
As the reader of Dark Arts, Dark Acts will find, Holmes and Watson are not the only detectives in this case, the S-Bahn killings are not the only things Holmes investigates, and there is lots of politics and espionage involving Mycroft Holmes, Winston Churchill, Joseph Goebbels, and Josef Stalin among numerous historical figures.
And the song Holmes and Watson hear sung at Berlin’s famous Adlon Hotel (there is always lots of music and verse in my stories) is the song of the German Luftwaffe. Its title is Bomben auf England which means exactly what it sounds like and can be heard on Youtube.
Have you visited Berlin yourself as part of the research?
I have been to Berlin often. It is a city full of history and I can’t recommend a trip there too highly. All the scenes in the book, are located where they actually happened, and the most atmospheric scenes in my book are drawn from things people who lived through World War II have told me.
Where can we find out more about the S-Bahn killer
Besides Wikipedia, there are several books on the topic. Below is an interview with the writers of one of them - Radio Public.
There are quite a few Youtube videos about has about him - here's one in particular...