In the spirit of Sherlock Holmes, David Grann attempts to solve 12 mysteries that have stymied the public and even the police force. He also looks at the nature of obsession, traveling with a scientist who is determined to catch a giant squid, investigating the strange death of a Sherlock Holmes addict, and talking with a family all employed in building New York City’s newest aqueduct. The stories are wide-ranging but are joined by common themes of death, obsession, and madness.
This collection really runs the gamut of interest. Some of the mysteries were absolutely fascinating and occasionally heartbreaking. For example, the Sherlock Holmes obsessive is the first case featured in the book, and not only is the guy’s life story interesting, but his death is genuinely a mystery. And I had no idea about any of New York City’s water problems, let alone the men who actually risk their lives down there to build a new gigantic pipeline (with protests from the very people that this pipe is going to help, no less!). But some of the stories aren’t really mysteries. I had no interest in the white supremacy group that killed people in the prisons, and it didn’t seem like all that much of a mystery to me. Nor did Haiti’s “devil” Toto Constant – and that wasn’t a particularly interesting story, either.
Throughout, the writing is smooth and very readable. Some of the mysteries had me turning the pages quite rapidly to find out the truth. It helps that Grann went to talk to many of the people featured, and it’s clear that he’s been working on the stories in this book for a long time. He definitely brought their situations to life.
For some people, these stories might all be interesting, but I think for most this is a book to pick and choose from. If The Devil and Sherlock Holmes sounds interesting to you now, I guarantee you’ll enjoy several of these well-written accounts.
I am an Amazon Associate. I received this book for free from the Amazon Vine program.