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How you can make like Sherlock Holmes

December 21, 2009 |  7:56 am


Sherlock Holmes' powers of detection are legendary. Holmes was so beloved that when author Sir Conan Doyle killed the character off, popular outcry forced him to revive him. Holmes has been bobbing to the surface of our cultural slipstream ever since; he'll make his latest splash on Dec. 25, when Guy Ritchie's film starring Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes and Jude Law as Watson hits screens.

But aspiring sleuths need not wait until then to make like Sherlock Holmes. A new manual from Quirk Books (the publisher that brought us "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies") takes lessons from all Doyle's writings to provide a kind of do-it-yourself detective guide. "The Sherlock Holmes Handbook -- The Methods and Mysteries of the World's Greatest Detective" by Ransom Riggs includes sections like "How to Locate a Secret Chamber" and "How to Keep Your Mind Sharp: Opium Dens and Narcotics in the Victorian Era."

Some of the lessons seem obvious, but it takes a keen mind like Holmes' not to miss things others might. In "How to Examine a Body at a Crime Scene," the first lesson is Make sure the victim is actually dead. In two different Holmes stories, victims were deeply unconscious -- and one had been nailed in a coffin. Get the Lady Frances Carfax out of there, pronto!

Relevant quotes from Holmes pepper the book: "I see no more than you, but I have trained myself to notice what I see," Holmes said in "The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier." "It is a wicked world, and when a clever man turns his brain to crime it is the worst of all" in "The Adventure of the Speckled Band."

There are handy illustrations of Victorian firearms, instructions for maintaining Holmes-like relations with women and royalty, and tips on beekeeping and safe-cracking. Some are not entirely detailed -- but if you can't figure out how to transfer bees into their new hive from a few sentences, you're not quite up to Holmes' level of detection. And that's exactly the way he -- or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle -- would have had it. "No man lives or has ever lived," Holmes said in "A Study in Scarlet," "who has brought the same amount of study and of natural talent to the detection of crime which I have done."

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Warner Bros.