Authors: Daniel Smith
For Rosie – ‘always the woman’
First published in Great Britain in 2012 by
Michael O’Mara Books Limited
9 Lion Yard
London SW4 7NQ
Copyright © Michael O’Mara Books Limited 2012
All rights reserved. You may not copy, store, distribute, transmit, reproduce or otherwise make available this publication (or any part of it) in any form, or by any means (electronic, digital, optical, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of the publisher. Any person who does any unauthorised act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
ISBN: 978-1-84317-953-5 in print format
ISBN: 978-1-84317-971-9 in EPub format
ISBN: 978-1-84317-972-6 in Mobipocket format
Cover designed by
Illustrations by Aubrey Smith
Designed and typeset by Dave Crook
I: Preparing the Mind
II: Building Your Knowledge Base
omething strange has happened in the last few years. Sherlock Holmes – that uptight, cold, sexless sleuth who inhabited the grimy streets of London in the latter part of the nineteenth century and early part of the twentieth – has become cool.
Hollywood (in the form of Robert Downey Jnr) has got hold of Sherlock and made him tough, streetwise and even funny. Meanwhile, the BBC has given us Benedict Cumberbatch as a Holmes who oscillates between brooding moodiness one moment and manic energy the next. Cumberbatch’s Holmes is the epitome of geek-sexiness.
For those of us who have loved the Holmes stories since we first read them as children, and grew up enchanted by Jeremy Brett’s spellbindingly faithful depiction of him on the screen, this has all come as something of a surprise. For years, the worship of Sherlock Holmes has been something undertaken by a significant but ultimately small community, often regarded with a mixture of curiosity and condescension by an unsympathetic world at large.
How did Sherlock Holmes win his newly-elevated status? There are doubtless many reasons, but surely one of the chief attractions is that he is just so remarkably smart. In a world where we are fed a diet of eye-wateringly dull reality television and are forced to bear witness to the tiresome antics of identikit celebrities, Holmes’s fantastic feats of intellect and his complex and multi-layered psychology have never seemed more fascinating.
Holmes always knew he was a special case: ‘No man lives or has ever lived who has brought the same amount of study and of natural talent to the detection of crime which I have done,’ he famously declared. Those who witnessed his exploits at first-hand called him ‘a wizard, a sorcerer!’ and spoke of ‘powers that are hardly human’.
But Holmes himself was reluctant to share his secrets, proclaiming: ‘You know a conjurer gets no credit when once he has explained his trick and if I show you too much of my method of working, you will come to the conclusion that I am a very ordinary individual after all.’ And even if he had shared, he had little faith in the ability of others to truly understand his methods: ‘What do the public, the great unobservant public, who could hardly tell a weaver by his tooth or a compositor by his left thumb, care about the finer shades of analysis and deduction!’
But, of course, the public back then did not have access to a book such as this. In the pages that follow we will make a light-hearted but comprehensive exploration of the psyche, mental gymnastics and investigative techniques of the world’s greatest consulting detective. Each section includes evidence from the original stories of Holmes’s mental processes, along with all sorts of information, advice and tips on how you can more closely resemble him. A liberal spattering of quizzes and exercises should serve to keep you on your toes as you go along.
Nor need you be planning a life as a crimefighter to benefit from these pages. A great many of the skills that Holmes encapsulated are transferrable; we can all benefit from improving our mental dexterity, growing our memory capacity and learning how to interpret body language.
Read this book carefully and absorb its lessons. As Holmes himself declared: ‘A man should keep his little brain attic stocked with all the furniture that he is likely to use, and the rest he can put away in the lumber-room of his library, where he can get it if he wants it.’
Preparing the Mind