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"acquired by long and patient study" [STUD]

Examining the "Science of Deduction and Analysis" is a singular activity - many Holmesian scholars have managed to find interesting nuances when focusing on the Great Detective's skills. With the plethora of Holmes-related media in recent years, it would seem that reconciling Holmes' unique talents to modern-day psychology might be a bit daunting.

Thankfully, we now have Maria Konnikova's Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes (available on Amazon) a fascinating book that not only marries Victorian detection to current-day thought, but manages to provide an illuminating, insightful work for both Sherlockians and casual fans alike. Mastermind focuses on how much of what we understand about learning, decision-making, and deductive ability can be derived from Holmesian thought (as expressed in the canon).

Each discussion has an underpinning in the canon, from how "facts" can influence our first impressions (see Mary Morstan) to the proper care and maintenance of the "brain attic", Mastermind takes much of its lead from key stories in the canon. (In fact, towards the end Mastermind cleverly demonstrates how Holmes' cognitive abilities have developed over time, citing both early and later Conan Doyle stories).

For both Sherlockians and the casual reader, Mastermind is relatively easy to comprehend, avoiding complicated language for an extremely simple approach. The final chapter - which outlines precisely how to attain Holmesian skills in deduction - is well worth the cost of the book. But it's the chapters leading up to it, mixing familiar (and some unusual) references to the canon, that provide the bulk of Mastermind's value, placing Holmes' abilities in the realm of possibility.

Mastermind may not necessarily lead you to consider a career in being a consulting detective....but provides one of the best pieces of both Sherlockian and psychological scholarship. This is a must-read for the serious Holmes scholar.

You can hear our interview with Maria on Episode 54: How to Think Like Sherlock:

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