Sherlock Unlocked: Little-Known Facts About the World’s Greatest Detective

Sherlock Unlocked

Sherlock Unlocked: Little-Known Facts About the World’s Greatest Detective, by Daniel Smith, is a lovely little gift book. It’s nice for pick-up-and-put-down reading, or dipping in and out, with 117 chapters in under 200 pages on a variety of topics. (Obviously, most topics get a few paragraphs; many of them are reminiscent of short blog posts.)

Content ranges across the origins and inspirations of the characters to bits of Arthur Conan Doyle’s life, with diversions into spinoffs (mostly on the stage), details about props and locations, how Holmes inspired real-life investigative techniques, and various lists (such as the crimes committed across the stories, different ways Holmes was attacked, or Holmes’s costumes). Smith tackles the oddities and mistakes as well, if only in passing, including Watson’s moving wound and his wife mixing up his name.

For anyone who’s enough of a fan of Sherlock Holmes to have read more than just the canonical tales (four novels and 56 short stories), I’m not sure how much of this trivia will actually be completely new, but I appreciated having the lists of Doyle’s own favorites of the stories and the cases mentioned but never told. Smith isn’t afraid to tackle Holmes’s drug use, Watson’s gambling, and Doyle’s descent into spirituality and other gullibilities later in life. He also has a different take on how Doyle felt about Americans, pointing out his desire for closer relations between the U.S. and Britain.

Sherlock Unlocked: Little-Known Facts About the World's Greatest Detective

The book lacks an index, which would have been helpful in finding information, given that the cutesy piece titles aren’t always descriptive. And Smith gets at least one thing wrong, reporting on the discovery of a new Doyle Holmes story that turns out to have been discredited.

I was also surprised, with all the lists and mentions, that Smith doesn’t cover the reuse of the name “Violet” for women in the Holmes stories. With four in the canon, given the relative lack of major named female characters, I would think that would be worth mentioning.

Given that this is an English publication, with an American printing coming next summer, I’m curious to know if any of the content will be changed or updated. Regardless, reading the book was a fun way to kill an afternoon.

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