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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.
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.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
"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
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
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
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.
5 of 7 people found this review helpful
I was very disappointed by this book. I thought the great Simon Prebble was narrating. However, once again, a book is ruined by the author narrating her own work.
9 of 14 people found this review helpful
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.
4 of 6 people found this review helpful
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.
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
A pretty good introduction to early forensic science marred by the author's narration- I think she's going for eerie but her Schlick soon gets a little tiresome. It's apparent that the book was well researched and does not rely overmuch on the usual examples drawn from real life that are often trotted out in books on criminology.
The author is narrator, which has some merit, but although she's an academic and so, presumably, accustomed to speak in public, she's not an actor, so delivery is not perfect, and her pronunciation of European proper nouns can be jarring to the non-USA ear.
However, she does present an entertaining and enlightening history of forensic science, linking fact with Holmesian and other classic fiction, and drawing on cases, some very famous, some less well known, from UK and US, France, Germany mainly, with awareness of varied culture and legal systems -Scots law is not English law, for example, we have the third verdict of "not proven" so important before capital punishment was abolished.
She does, however, refer to the august alma mater I share with Arthur Conan Doyle as "a non-residential school"!
This is Edinburgh University, founded 1583, but perhaps her odd description isn't a put down in US English...
(Or maybe she had funding from St Andrews, Aberdeen or Glasgow - our older rivals - JUST JOKING!)
There is amusing advice on performing post-mortems on the dining room table, or even in the kirkyard after the service. I suspect this was more a US thing; in my adult lifetime, emergency surgery or Caesarian sections on the kitchen table in some remote part of Highlands and Islands, but never heard of a pathologist keen to persuade the Air Ambulance out in bad weather to dismantle the dead.
It is well worth a couple of listens, and it's mostly good stuff