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The Science of Sherlock Holmes: From Baskerville Hall to the Valley of Fear, the Real Forensics Behind the Great Detective's Greatest Cases | [E. J. Wagner]

The Science of Sherlock Holmes: From Baskerville Hall to the Valley of Fear, the Real Forensics Behind the Great Detective's Greatest Cases

Forensic expert Wagner has crafted a volume that stands out from the plethora of recent memoirs of contemporary scientific detectives. By using the immortal and well-known Sherlock Holmes stories as her starting point, Wagner blends familiar examples from Doyle's accounts into a history of the growth of forensic science, pointing out where fiction strayed from fact.
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Publisher's Summary

The Science of Sherlock Holmes is a wild ride in a hansom cab along the road paved by Sherlock Holmes—a ride that leads us through medicine, law, pathology, toxicology, anatomy, blood chemistry, and the emergence of real-life forensic science during the 19th and 20th centuries.

From the "well-marked print of a thumb" on a whitewashed wall in "The Adventure of the Norwood Builder" to the trajectory and impact of a bullet in "The Reigate Squires", author E. J. Wagner uses the Great Detective's remarkable adventures as springboards into the real-life forensics behind them.

You'll meet scientists, investigators, and medical experts, such as the larger-than-life Eugène Vidocq of the Paris Sûreté, the determined detective Henry Goddard of London's Bow Street Runners, the fingerprint expert Sir Francis Galton, and the brilliant but arrogant pathologist Sir Bernard Spilsbury. You'll explore the ancient myths and bizarre folklore that were challenged by the evolving field of forensics and examine the role that brain fever, Black Dogs, and vampires played in criminal history.

Real-life Holmesian mysteries abound throughout the book. What happened to Dr. George Parkman, wealthy physician and philanthropist, last seen entering the Harvard College of Medicine in 1849? The trial included some of the first expert testimony on handwriting analysis on record—some of it foreshadowing what Holmes said of printed evidence years later in The Hound of the Baskervilles, "But this is my special hobby, and the differences are equally obvious."

Through numerous cases, including celebrated ones such as those of Jack the Ripper and Lizzie Borden, the author traces the influence of the coolly analytical Holmes on the gradual emergence of forensic science from the grip of superstition. You'll find yourself listening to The Science of Sherlock Holmes as eagerly as you would those of any Holmes mystery.

©2006 E.J. Wagner (P)2010 Audible, Inc.

What the Critics Say

  • Edgar Award, Best Critical / Biographical Work, 2007

"E. J. Wagner demonstrates that without the work of Sherlock Holmes and his contemporaries, the CSI teams would be twiddling their collective thumbs. Her accounts of Victorian crimes make Watson's tales pale! Highly recommended for students of the Master Detective." (Leslie S. Klinger, Editor, The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes)

"What really makes The Science of Sherlock Holmes stand out is Wagner's easy and engaging style. The book reads like a series of highly entertaining and informative lectures making the subject matter accessible to both the layman and serious student alike... Bottom line: An absolute must-have addition to the Sherlockian non-fiction shelf that is highly recommended to the general reader, Sherlockian and even, dare I say it, CSI fan." (Charles V. Prepolec, Sherlock magazine)

"interesting, informative, and even enlightening." (AudioFile)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.6 (55 )
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3.7 (31 )
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  •  
    A. Yoshida Pasadena, CA USA 06-16-13
    A. Yoshida Pasadena, CA USA 06-16-13 Member Since 2013
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    "Science in the time of Sherlock Holmes"
    What did you like best about The Science of Sherlock Holmes? What did you like least?

    I was expecting a book about Sherlock Holmes' deductive reasoning. It is more about the science that existed in the time in which the Sherlock Holmes' adventures took place.This is for dedicated fans of Sherlock Holmes who want to know the sciences that would have been known to Sherlock Holmes.


    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Fogelsville, PA, United States 11-22-13
    David Fogelsville, PA, United States 11-22-13 Member Since 2009
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    "sort of forensics barely related to Sherlock H."

    The author has researched and picked material from legal cases mostly from the 19th century. The lack of scientific explanation is obvious. Also, the cases are picked to illuminate points rather than follow development of a scientific concept. The attachment to Sherlock Holmes seems to have been to tie together what must have been tedious research.
    The echoes and poor overdubbing don't help.

    Should be on the remainder rack.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amy Granite Falls, NC, USA 01-28-13
    Amy Granite Falls, NC, USA 01-28-13 Member Since 2006

    Say something about yourself!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Well done!"

    "Sherlock Holmes may have been fictional," writes E.J. Wagner, "but what we learn from him is very real. He tell us that science provides not simplistic answers but a rigorous method of formulating questions that may lead to answers." The Science of Sherlock Holmes offers a history of forensic science by focusing on 1) what informed Arthur Conan Doyle's portrayal of Holmes and his method, and 2) how Holmes in turn influenced his real-life descendants. It's not a comprehensive history, but rather a thematic study of advances in various areas of forensics - ballistics, footprints, fingerprints, blood analysis, etc. - with in-depth illustrations from some of the most famous (or infamous) watershed cases in the UK and US (including Jack the Ripper and Lizzie Borden). For my purposes, wanting to get a better handle on how Holmes was informed by and then informed advances in this field, I found it to be an engaging and satisfying listen.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Douglas R. Pratt northern VA 12-17-10
    Douglas R. Pratt northern VA 12-17-10 Member Since 2007

    Douglas R. Pratt

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    "Excellent"

    Narrated by the author herself, and beautifully done. I listened once for entertainment and have gone through it three more times to get a grip on all the facts. Things I never knew about the Ripper killings, the Dreyfus case, even the Stuart queens.. wonderful.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rebecca Fredericksburg, VA, United States 09-10-13
    Rebecca Fredericksburg, VA, United States 09-10-13 Member Since 2008
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    "Writers shouldn't read books."
    Where does The Science of Sherlock Holmes rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    It's average to below average because the author narrates.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Science of Sherlock Holmes?

    Being non-fiction, it had few 'moments.' What it did have was interesting information on the history of both general science and criminal investigation during the 19th and early 20th centuries, from a European perspective. It gives the reader a solid sense of the information that would have been available to Sherlock Holmes and the investigation procedures being used in other European countries at the time. There are some true crime stories included to illustrate the progress of forensic investigation and only a little Sherlock, with the point of the book being what he would have known rather than how he thought.


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    While essentially competent, she still is hard to listen to, doesn't know that hover rhymes with cover, and gets the emphasis or timing wrong often enough to be a bother. I think that her experience as a storyteller makes her more expressive than is necessary so that when she makes a mistake it is more jarring. If you are a listener who is sensitive to the pitch, tone, and rhythms of language, you might be happier reading this in print.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Canarylampshade Providence, RI, USA 06-27-11
    Canarylampshade Providence, RI, USA 06-27-11 Member Since 2001

    lover of books, puzzles, and yarn

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Can't get through it..."

    I found this very disappointing! While the writing is probably just fine, the author has chosen to narrate it, and that was a poor decision. It would be YARDS better had a professional narrator been chosen.

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carroll Alexandria, VA, United States 04-13-14
    Carroll Alexandria, VA, United States 04-13-14 Member Since 2010
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    "Rare historical view of the 1800s"

    Rarely are the unique views on the fictional Sherlock Holmes, this time from the scope of the existing science of the 1800's utilized in the stories.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nigel Setauket, NY, United States 11-02-10
    Nigel Setauket, NY, United States 11-02-10
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    "Riveting narration"

    Author E. J. Wagner's suspenseful narration of her book is deliciously evocative of the golden age of radio mystery. A mix of haunting folklore, true crime, and the growing influence of Sherlock Holmes’ logic, the audio version demonstrates that forensic science can provide gripping, dramatic, and often humorous stories. E. J. Wagner, a well-known professional storyteller and presenter, uses her theatrical skill to riveting advantage.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
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