"Brilliant Deduction" asks the question "who are the greatest detectives ever" and then attempts to find an answer which doesn't involve fictional characters. The result is nine men whose careers in the 19th and early 20th century represent the heroic years of real-world detection, from the very first full-time professionals to the Prohibition era. Each chapter examines a different detective (or, in one case, a detective partnership) who became a legend in his own time, and in some cases a full-fledged celebrity. At the same time, the larger narrative ties these individual histories together to explore how real-life detectives rose to such fame for nearly 100 years, then fell back into obscurity.
Matt Kuhns grew up in small-town Iowa, graduating with honors from Iowa State University. In his always eventful career as a graphic designer, he has worked for a private university, a boutique design studio and a craft products retail chain, as well as various nonprofit institutions and several advertising agencies. He currently operates his own independent design practice as Modern Alchemy LLC. He lives in Lakewood, Ohio.
They say truth is always stranger than fiction, and it is also usually more interesting, too. The fictional characters Sherlock Holmes and Poirot are both engaging detectives with memorable stories. But they are all fictional and nearly pale in comparison with the lives of historical detectives. Brilliant Deduction by Matt Kuhns explores the real life detectives in history who have made such an impact on the field of investigation.
Kuhns explores the lives of these historical detectives: Eugène François Vidocq; Jonathan Whicher; The Pinkertons men; Ignatius "Paddington" Pollaky; Isaiah Lees; William Burns; and Ellis Parker. The different biographies span nearly two centuries, and it is fascinating to learn about how they went about their work, and why solving crimes became so vital to them.
Their lives are at times tragic and full of obstacles but each had an instinctive and deep desire to solve mysteries. They are as interesting as any fictional character you will read about. Knowing these individuals made the history books and inspired others makes them even more engaging.
A great read, for both mystery and history buffs as Brilliant Deduction combines the two. It is highly recommended for those that think those fictional characters are the most dynamic detectives around. And I'll think about the generic word 'Pinkerton' a little differently when I watch another Western. I now know who the real men were.
Terrific fodder for those looking for inspiration for writing detective fiction, with a robust appendix of further reading. The book shines when it takes a breath and does some real storytelling to break up the broader historical strokes, and I do wish there had been more of that. But then, I'm a fan of detective stories!
If you like both history nonfiction and detective fiction, this book is a must-read. The real-life detectives in this book are just as amazing as their fictional counterparts, although I doubt if any of them ever donned a trench coat or a deerstalker cap.
I just couldn't get into this. I see all of the great reviews so I wonder why. I would have liked more discussion of the detection and less of the detectives but that's my own interest and maybe not that of the author.