John Dickson Carr’s The Man Who Was Sherlock Holmes – A Review

Joan S. Reed

Scotland born Arthur Conan Doyle, who lived between 1859 and 1930, was much more than the creator of Sherlock Holmes. In two instances he solved real life crime cases in an effort to “right” two obvious wrongs. The police adopted many of Sherlock’s forensic innovations and his study of minutia is very relevant today, as can be seen in the various CSI television shows and forensic mysteries.

Doyle was an avid reader and researcher and seemed to keep everything, which was very helpful in Carr’s own research of the man. From his history of the Boer War in Africa to his prediction of World War I and a suggestion for a tunnel between England and France, the man was often sought after for his keen mind and insight. He wrote not only the Holmes’ stories, but is also given credit for early science fiction tales in the character of Professor Challenger from The Lost World. He also wrote non-fiction books and theatrical plays. He was a just man, who understood the bigger picture. For that reason he had the ear of many world leaders and influential people of his time from H.G. Wells to King Edward VII to Winston Churchill.

The author John Dickson Carr cannot seem to hide his admiration and as a result sometimes assumes the reader knows things that were not previously presented. But that same excitement is addicting, and you can’t help but like not only the subject, but also the writer himself. All of the materials used in the book were taken from the massive accumulation of Doyle’s own letters (1500 alone from his mother), notebooks, diaries and news clippings. For anyone, who has done any genealogy, you can imagine Carr’s impression of having hit the mother lode with all that material. He worked closely with Doyle’s children and had access to them throughout the writing.

Carr, a former president of the Mystery Writers of America, did an excellent job in portraying Doyle. Written in post-World War II, many “delicate” issues are handled euphemistically. For example, Doyle’s father was an alcoholic, who was admitted to a lunatic asylum, but Carr states that he was in poor health and spent time in a convalescent home. Readers must look elsewhere to find a complete bibliography of Doyle’s works, since Carr did not include one. Look online especially at for more fascinating insights as to the current owners of his published works.

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