Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Sherlock Holmes—CSI Before the Acronym Became Famous

I’m sure most of our readers, along with my fellow Cozy Mystery Magazine authors, know by now that I’m a huge Miss Marple/Agatha Christie fan. For a cozy mystery author like me, Miss Marple’s powers of observation are an inspiration for my own books. But even as much as I love the elderly sleuth, I have to admit that she didn’t use science like one of the first literary sleuths--Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock had a brilliant scientific mind, and his crime scene technique was years ahead of real crime science.

Take fingerprints, for example. Scotland Yard didn’t start using fingerprints until 1901. Sir Author Conan Doyle had Sherlock Holmes using fingerprint evidence in the Sign of Four, published in 1890. Holmes was also the first to analyze typewritten documents. In A Case of Identity, published in 1891, Holmes recognized that letters were typewritten, with no signature. He obtained a typewritten note from his suspect and analyzed the idiosyncrasies of the man’s typewriter. Case solved. The FBI only started a document section of the bureau in 1932.

If you want to learn more about the science of Sherlock Holmes and how he influenced the crime scene investigating field, there are a number of websites to read, along with a fascinating PBS show I just finished watching called, How Sherlock Changed the World.
You can find the show through Netflix. You can also buy the DVD at Amazon.

Here are some interesting websites, if you’d like to read more about the science behind Sherlock Holmes:

Six Methods of Detection in Sherlock Holmes

How Sherlock Chaged the World Shows Evolution of Modern Crime Solving

In closing, I will say that despite Sherlock Holmes’ abilities, I’d prefer to spend a day with Miss Marple. I’ve always found Sherlock Holmes an unlikeable guy, even though I admire his intelligence. I enjoy the stories, but they don’t contain the characterization of the Miss Marples novels—and I love character development. Sherlock Holmes books are more about him and his smarts. Miss Marple is more about the people. This is just my opinion. I'd love to hear what our readers have to say.  


  1. Thanks for helping me see why I could never get into Doyle's books! Movies? No problem.

  2. Candice--And here I am waiting with baited breath for the Sherlock series with Benedict Cumberbach to COME BACK! Thanks for a great article.

  3. Wait! Did you I read you right? You don't read Doyle? Mystery Sacrilege!
    All kidding aside, I do understand about problems with the Sherlock character. Let's face it, he might have been brilliant, but he had MAJOR issues. The kind that don't make warm and fuzzy characterization. However, I think the character of Dr. Watson more than makes up for it. He's got a sense of humor, he's smart in his own right, he's a dedicated friend and a great narrator.
    READING CHALLENGE: The Hound of the Baskervilles! Dr. Watson is a major character in that one, and it's good creepy fun for the October season! (Yeah I hear you thinking, I wonder why she likes that one?) But really great book, and you can get for free!
    And no watching the movie! That's cheating! Unless it has Basil Rathbone as Sherlock. Sorry Linda, but no one rocked the deerstalker cap like Basil!

  4. Thanks for commenting, everyone! Cindy. . .lol! I do read Sherlock. I think I've watched every movie featuring him, as well. And you're right. It is Watson who brings warmth to the stories. There is even some humor intermixed in it all.

  5. I like the groundbreaking science in Sherlock Holmes stories, but I too prefer Christie's. Doyle's stories seemed to grab clues from the air, to dazzle the reader, but often didn't play fair and let the reader in on the clues necessary to solve the mystery. That said, I do enjoy the modern Sherlock series with Cumberbach (although I have to put the subtitles on to understand the dialogue.)

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Thanks for visiting and commenting, Beth! I, too, like the modern Sherlock, and using subtitles would make it easier to understand sometimes.