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"A very workmanlike bit of analysis" [VALL]

The somewhat unwieldy-titled book How Sherlock Holmes Deduced “Break The Case Clues” On The BTK Killer, The Son of Sam, Unabomber and Anthrax Cases - With Analysis on The Mad Bomber and the Unsolved L.I. Gilgo Beach Murders (disclosure: cmp.ly/5) is an examination of the cases mentioned in the title, made up of actual reports made to the FBI or other agency involved in the case. The author, Tom Walker, is a retired police captain of the NYPD and a Sherlockian. As he says in his Introduction:

“What follows is true, it is not fiction. However, I readily acknowledge that none of these deductive successes would have been possible without Sherlock Holmes walking behind me and occasionally whispering in my ear.”

It is interesting to see the inner workings of a mind that directly applies lessons from Sherlock Holmes to detective work. Mr. Walker provides just enough detail of each crime to express the horror of the scenes, but does not delve into unnecessary gore. The “break the case clues” he arrives at unfortunately never do break a case, but they very well might have if his conclusions had been heeded by the agency in charge.

The book, for the most part, maintains an academic atmosphere fitting for a ‘course of lectures,’ as Holmes himself would have liked. The exception comes in moments of Sherlock Holmes quite literally whispering in Mr. Walker’s ear, moments which are either supposed to add a touch of levity, or are a very serious Sherlockian taking the influence of Sherlock Holmes very seriously. Either way, Playing The Game is an unexpected quirk within a nonfiction setting.

Of course, this is a book written by a long-time Sherlockian, for Sherlockians, but there are moments where The Game is just too pronounced for a relative newcomer like me. For example, during what is otherwise a convincing defense of Bruce Ivins, the top suspect for the Anthrax Killer case, Walker details a clandestine consultation with the BSI that anyone unfamiliar with the organization would find unintentionally campy at best. His appeal to whomever knows the identity of the Gilgo Beach murderer(s) at the end of the book to step forward at Holmes’s insistence is off-putting.

Apart from that, the author is confident in his ability and clearly guides the reader through his methods in each case. He does have a little trouble narratively, the best example of which is the first half of his description of the Son of Sam case. He attempts to frame the case within what was going on in his life at the time, with the result that we get an interesting account of the power structure of NYC law enforcement and a fun game-show story, but this is ultimately a diversion that doesn't seem to contribute anything to the overall theme of the book or the analysis of the case itself. Another occasion of a case not quite fitting within the Sherlockian theme is his examination of the police response to the Mad Bomber. It is a fascinating analysis of effective (and ineffective) procedure, but it lacks the direct references to Canon and Holmes’s methodology that ties the other cases to the Great Detective.

Overall, anyone interested in seeing Sherlock Holmes’s methods applied to real-life detective work would find this an enjoyable and interesting light read. It should also appeal to anyone who wants to see a new perspective on high profile cases and the inner workings of law enforcement. Mr. Walker’s language is clear and his process easy to follow. He knows what he is doing, and it would be nice to see him get some recognition for it.

How Sherlock Holmes Deduced “Break The Case Clues” On The BTK Killer, The Son of Sam, Unabomber and Anthrax Cases - With Analysis on the Mad Bomber and The Unsolved L.I. Gilgo Beach Murders is available in paperback and ebook formats directly from the publisher, iUniverse, or Barnes and Noble. It is also available on Amazon, but if I understood the iUniverse royalty policy correctly, you’ll do better by the author if you purchase it from iUniverse or Barnes and Noble.

Katie writes about Sherlock Holmes in science fiction (among other things) on her tumblr.