The Devil and Sherlock Holmes

The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder Madness and Obsession is the second offering from David Grann, the author of the hit The Lost City of Z (recently reviewed in our Staff Picks) and it's a readable collection of nonfiction originally published in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic and The New Republic. Ostensibly an attempt to profile real life mysteries, it's really just a look at some interesting people, many of whom have a connection to a crime. The profiles range from an elderly bank robber to Toto Constant, a former strongman in Haiti.

One of my favorite pieces in this collection had nothing to do with crime, but was instead a profile of the tunnel system thousands of feet under New York City.  It's an awe-inspiring look at an incredible feat of engineering, and shows how despite changes in the technology used to create and maintain this system the families involved in the work remain the same, generation after generation.

Among other the pieces in this collection are an attempt to identify the murderer of an expert on Sherlock Holmes (thus giving the collection its title), a look at a con-artist who specializes in false identities who may have been conned himself, and the search for the elusive giant squid.

As in any collection of this type, the pieces are not equally captivating. But they're all relatively short and readable making it easy to move on to the next one. A light read, this collection will be of interest to people interested in true crime (although only half the essays deal with this subject) or NPR-ish profiles of interesting people. It's a nice holdover as we wait for his next full-length piece of nonfiction.

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