B.J. Rahn is an academic who teaches English literature at Hunter College in New York, but is well known in the crime fiction fraternity as one of the liveliest and most perceptive commentators on the field. Her qualities as a writer are what effortlessly raise The Real World of Sherlock above the daunting army of volumes of Holmesiana. Her subjects here (lovingly expatiated) are the antecedents of the Great Detective, tackling such issues as from where Conan Doyle drew his inspiration for Holmes, and a concomitant examination of the mysteries which exercised the skills of real Victorian detectives. But while the picture of crime in 19th-century London is as fascinatingly detailed one might wish, it is the combination of Doyle’s audacious literary filigrees with real-life detection techniques that really exercise Rahn, and she makes the unorthodox case that the often unlikely elements of the story sometimes possess a real veracity. Any crime fiction reader with an interest in the violin-playing resident of 221b Baker Street needs to acquire this study; be assured: it’s quite unlike any other book about Sherlock Holmes that you have ever read.
The Real World of Sherlock by B. J. Rahn is published by Amberley