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Title: The True Crime Files of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Author: Arthur Conan Doyle
Author2: Stephen Hines
Publisher: Berkley Hardcover
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Incorporating recently rediscovered original source material relating to two actual true crime cases, this intriguing study recounts two actual criminal investigations--"The Case of George Ernest Thompson Edalji" and "The Case of Oscar Slater"--in which the creator of Sherlock Holmes became involved to prove that two innocent men had been sent to prison for crimes they had not committed.
It might come as no surprise that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, after creating the first world-renowned fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes, started to believe that he could solve real-life crimes. What is surprising is that Doyle was sometimes successful. While the muscular, mustachioed author and his thin, hawk-nosed character would never have been mistaken for one another, they did share an abhorrence for injustice. And Doyle's association as a student with a medical professor named Joseph Bell--who, through close observation, could deduce extraordinary amounts of information from his patients--gave him both a model for the brilliant Holmes and an appreciation for careful forensic methodology.
The True Crime Files of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle focuses on a couple of curious British cases, both involving men Doyle believed were innocent. The first, which drew Doyle's attention in 1906, involved a shy half-British, half-Indian lawyer named George Edalji, who'd allegedly penned threatening letters and mutilated animals. Police were dead set on Edalji's guilt, though the mutilations continued even after their suspect was jailed. The second case examined here--that of Oscar Slater, a German Jew and gambling-den operator convicted of bludgeoning an 82-year-old woman in 1908--excited Doyle's curiosity because of inconsistencies in the prosecution case and a general sense that Slater was framed.
Editor Stephen Hines has compiled Doyle's passionate writings about these criminal probes as well as myriad missives to the press and other background material. This accumulation of arcana will delight passionate Doyle fans, though it's probably too much for the average reader, who may be satisfied with Steven Womack's introductory synopsis. --J. Kingston Pierce