Brilliant Deduction: The Story of Real-Life Great Detectives by Matt Kuhns attempts to answer the question, “Who are the greatest detectives to have ever lived?” Long before the days of CSI teams, DNA experts and fingerprint analysis there were detectives who used basic skills such as observation, disguise and analysis to solve crimes. Brilliant Deduction details the lives of nine men from the 19th and 20th centuries who helped to make detective work a respected profession and inspired such famous fictional characters as Sherlock Holmes and Hercules Poirot.
Kuhns explores the lives of the best of history’s real-life detectives. Detecives such as: Eugene Francois Vidocq; Jonathan Whicher; The Pinkertons; Ignatius Pollaky; Isaiah Lees; William Burns; and Ellis Parker. It was very interesting to read about their backgrounds and the circumstances that led them to a life as a detective. For example, Eugene Vidocq had spent years living a life of crime including multiple arrests, escapes from jail, living on the run and living under assumed identities before he became involved with detective work. Many of the details of Vidocq’s life are unconfirmed and based on speculation because of his life of crime and assumed names. He is the first detective detailed in the novel and immediately captured my attention.
The cases Kuhns discussed in his book are intriguing. The methods used to garner confessions are amazing, especially when you consider that these crimes took place in the 19th and 20th centuries. Kuhns details and historical accuracy are impressive. There were times during the book when I took it upon myself to stop reading and Google some of the people, crimes, and locations to verify the facts and read more information. I became so fully engrossed in this novel I couldn’t simply read it and put it away. I had to continue to pursue information and research. It’s intoxicating.
It was a riveting read from beginning to end. In addition to reading about the detectives it was also curious to read about the advancement of detective skills. How did uncover work first begin? What about footprint analysis? DNA? Fingerprinting? Tracking and observation? Informers? For anyone interested in criminal forensics or mystery it is unbelievably fascinating. It’s a recommended read for anyone interested in true crime, mystery and history.
My only problem with this book was the number of sentences that began with the conjunctions “and” or “but.” I know that the acceptance of sentences beginning with conjunctions is a highly disputed writing style. There is a portion of the literary world that finds it entirely acceptable and then there are others, like me, who find it unacceptable and inappropriate. Conjunctions are, by definition, used to join two clauses or ideas together. Beginning a sentence with a conjunction is a style that I find annoying and distracting. I do not feel as though the majority of readers will find it as distracting as I did and, obviously, I still enjoyed the book very much. I would still highly recommend that you pick up the book and give it a read especially if you are interested in mysteries. The research and storytelling is superb!
Review by Ashley LaMar
Closed the Cover