The Ardlamont mystery The real-life story behind the creation of Sherlock Holmes

Daniel Smith, 1976-

Book - 2018

The Ardlamont murder trial, which took place in Edinburgh's High Court in December 1893, was the culmination of one of the most intriguing criminal cases in British legal history. But perhaps more remarkable than that was that it brought together the two principal real-life inspirations behind the creation of the world's favourite fictional consulting detective: Sherlock Holmes. Joseph Bell and Henry Littlejohn were Professors of Medicine at Edinburgh University. As educators, medical trailblazers and social reformers, the two friends were pioneers in the emerging world of forensic science, and both were called as expert witnesses at the Ardlamont murder trial. Under their tutelage had been a young student named Arthur Conan Doyle.... He had served as an assistant to Bell, where he was able to scrutinise at first-hand Bell's remarkable deductive powers. In fact, Conan Doyle went on to say of Bell: 'It is most certainly to you that I owe Sherlock Holmes'.

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London : Michael O'Mara Books Limited 2018.
Main Author
Daniel Smith, 1976- (author)
Physical Description
254 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, map ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages 242-246) and index.
  • Prologue
  • 1. The Holmes Connection
  • 2. Fates Entwined
  • 3. A Gentleman and a Scoundrel
  • 4. A Tangled Web
  • 5. Partners in Crime-Fighting
  • 6. The Body in the Woods
  • 7. An Exact Science
  • 8. The Third Man
  • 9. A National Sensation
  • 10. Two Men in a Boat
  • 11. The Smoking Gun
  • 12. A Second Opinion
  • 13. The Element of Doubt
  • 14. The Jury Returns
  • 15. For a Sheep as a Lamb
  • 16. The One that Got Away
  • 17. A Dog with a Bad Name
  • 18. The Veiled Lover
  • 19. Aftermath
  • Bibliography
  • Acknowledgements
  • Index
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Despite the misleading subtitle, Smith (How to Think like Sherlock: Improve Your Powers of Observation, Memory and Deduction) provides the definitive look at a sensational homicide case. In 1893, six years after Conan Doyle's first Holmes story was published, three men went out for a morning hunt on the Ardlamont Estate in Argyll, Scotland, and only two returned. Cecil Hambrough, a 20-year-old Army lieutenant, was killed by a shot in the back of the head, and one of his companions, Alfred Monson, who was retained by Hambrough's family to tutor him, asserted that Cecil had shot himself. Suspicions quickly developed that Monson murdered his charge; he and his wife owned two policies insuring Cecil's life, and just the evening before, Cecil almost died when the boat he was in, along with Monson, almost sank. The prosecution's witnesses included "two pioneers of forensic science," Dr. Joseph Bell and Dr. Henry Littlejohn, who were both significant influences on Conan Doyle's fictional detective. Making use of extensive archival research, Smith presents the inquiry, trial, and its aftermath with just the right amount of detail. Sherlockians and true crime buffs alike will be intrigued. (May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

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