I’d like to say a big thank you to both Hamza and Thea from Icon Books for inviting me along and providing me with a beautiful copy of this book. American Sherlock is a historical crime non-fiction book focusing on Edward Oscar Heinrich who was one of the first forensic scientists.
Let’s get started…
A gripping historical true crime narrative that “reads like the best of Conan Doyle himself” (Karen Abbott, author of The Ghosts of Eden Park), American Sherlock recounts the riveting true story of the birth of modern criminal investigation.
Berkeley, California, 1933. In a lab filled with curiosities–beakers, microscopes, Bunsen burners, and hundreds upon hundreds of books–sat an investigator who would go on to crack at least two thousand cases in his forty-year career. Known as the “American Sherlock Holmes,” Edward Oscar Heinrich was one of America’s greatest–and first–forensic scientists, with an uncanny knack for finding clues, establishing evidence, and deducing answers with a skill that seemed almost supernatural.
Heinrich was one of the nation’s first expert witnesses, working in a time when the turmoil of Prohibition led to sensationalized crime reporting and only a small, systematic study of evidence. However with his brilliance, and commanding presence in both the courtroom and at crime scenes, Heinrich spearheaded the invention of a myriad of new forensic tools that police still use today, including blood spatter analysis, ballistics, lie-detector tests, and the use of fingerprints as courtroom evidence. His work, though not without its serious–some would say fatal–flaws, changed the course of American criminal investigation.
Based on years of research and thousands of never-before-published primary source materials, American Sherlock captures the life of the man who pioneered the science our legal system now relies upon–as well as the limits of those techniques and the very human experts who wield them.
You probably know by now that I love true crime books, I’ve not read many set so far back in history as the 1920’s but I really loved learning about that time in American history as well as the cases that Heinrich was involved with. I’d never heard of Edward Oscar Heinrich before this book which is quite shocking due to the developments that he made in his field.
I love the fact that the author took Heinrich being known as the “American Sherlock Holmes” and really ran with it by starting each chapter with a quote from a Sherlock story such as A Study in Scarlet. Each of the quotes also related to the chapter aswell which I thought was really clever.
I do wish we didn’t have as much commentary on his financial problems and how his competitors affected his ego, however this is a biography of his life aswell so I do understand why this was seen as important to include.
Dawson really knows how to tell a story, the writing was compelling, each of the cases were written in so much detail that it was hard to remember she wasn’t actually there to witness his work.
So Who Is Kate Winkler Dawson?
Kate Winkler Dawson joined the University of Texas at Austin’s School of Journalism as a senior lecturer in 2009. Before then, she was on the faculty of Fordham University’s Marymount College for two years. A seasoned documentary producer, news writer and TV news producer, her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, United Press International in London, WCBS News, ABC News Radio, Fox News Channel, “PBS NewsHour” and “Nightline.” She’s on the board of the Texas Center for Actual Innocence and lives in Austin, Texas with her family.
See you guys in the next one…