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Conan Doyle for the Defense: The True Story of a Sensational British Murder, a Quest for Justice, and the World's Most Famous Detective Writer
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Conan Doyle for the Defense: The True Story of a Sensational British Murder, a Quest for Justice, and the World's Most Famous Detective Writer

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3.66  ·  Rating details ·  860 ratings  ·  217 reviews
In this thrilling true-crime procedural, the creator of Sherlock Holmes uses his unparalleled detective skills to exonerate a German Jew wrongly convicted of murder.

One of USA Today's "Five new books you won't want to miss!"

"Gripping . . . The book works on two levels, much like a good Holmes case."--Time

For all the scores of biographies of Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of
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Hardcover, 352 pages
Published June 26th 2018 by Random House
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3.66  · 
Rating details
 ·  860 ratings  ·  217 reviews


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Sean Gibson
Jul 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Margalit Fox is a witch.

I don’t mean to suggest that she dances naked in the moonlight with the coven, though I’ve never met the woman, so I can’t opine definitively vis-à-vis her nocturnal pursuits. Rather, I can conceive of nothing short of sorcery to explain how someone could so deftly craft a narrative that appeals so strongly to my oddly compulsive interests as they pertain to Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle, Victorian history, culture, and society, unsolved mysteries, facial hair, and
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Paromjit
Arthur Conan Doyle takes on the mantle of his own fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes, in the true crime case of an innocent man, German Jew Oscar Slater, convicted of the murder of the rich, elderly, unlikeable 82 year old woman, Marion Gilchrist in 1908, in Glasgow. Margalit Fox gives us a dense study of the true crime with her impeccable research, concentrating on giving us a social and political commentary of the era that allowed such a damning miscarriage of justice to take place. It is a ...more
Susan
May 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Arthur Conan Doyle is, of course, best known for writing Sherlock Holmes, but he was also a man of many interests. By the time of the events of this book, Conan Doyle was well known as a crusader for justice; although he was also somewhat derided for his passion for Spiritualism. However, if you are reading this book solely for your interest in Conan Doyle, then please be aware that this is largely about the historical true crime case, which occurred in Glasgow, 1908, and the events which follow ...more
Jon Recluse
Glasgow, Scotland: 1908
A wealthy, and extremely paranoid elderly woman is brutally murdered in her home. Clues that would prove to even the untrained to be blatantly false lead the police to a suspect, Oscar Slater - immigrant German Jew with a shady reputation. Slater finds himself imprisoned for a life of hard labor in one of Scotland's worst prisons...barely escaping hanging for the crime. After 18 and a half years, and close to suicidal, Slater manages to get a cry for help out....to Sir Art
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Nancy Oakes
I think a 3.7 is about right for this book. It's interesting for sure, but there's a lot here that could have been bypassed to make it flow better and give it more strength.

In 1908, 82 year-old Marion Gilchrist of Glasgow was severely beaten to death in her flat. All that was missing was a crescent-shaped diamond brooch, and police sent out a warning to the "Pawns" to be on the lookout. Four days later, a bicycle dealer revealed to the police that he knew a man who'd been trying to sell a pawn
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Giulia
May 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book was chock full of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle information. The Sherlock Holme's author was a true "gentleman". He had his principles and he stuck to them. I loved this book --if you are a Sherlock Holmes and true crime fan this book was written for you. It details the horrifying injustice done to Oscar Slater when he is wrongly found guilty of murdering a wealthy older woman he never even had heard of. ACD (along with a few others)helps to get Oscar out of his torturous prison cell in Peter ...more
Leah
Jul 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, true-crime
“...however improbable, must be the truth...”

In 1908, an elderly lady, Miss Gilchrist, was bludgeoned to death in her Glasgow home and a brooch was stolen. Shortly afterwards, Oscar Slater pawned a brooch and boarded a ship bound for America. These two facts were enough for the police to decide that he was the guilty man and, sure enough, they arrested and charged him, and he was convicted and condemned to death – a sentence that was swiftly commuted to life imprisonment in response to a growing
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The Lit Bitch
Oct 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
If you are like me, you probably only think of Sherlock Holmes when you hear the name Arthur Conan Doyle. I had no idea that he was like a real life Sherlock as well!

When this book came across my desk for review I was immediately intrigued because the more I thought about it, I knew basically nothing about the man who created the world most famous detective.

It actually makes sense that Conan Doyle was a real life detective, he obviously wrote with such authority on the subject that it’s embarras
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Tarissa
Oct 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fans of Sherlock Holmes, the canon isn't quite closed yet... here's a peek into the actual Sherlock who walked on this earth, and not just the one scrawled onto the page. The man behind the world's most famous fictional detective was, in fact, a detective too...

“...when it came to solving real-life mysteries, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had done this sort of thing before.”

This book – oh, so good! Here we're reading non-fiction, of course, but Fox's storywriting abilities make it come alive, to wher
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Allie
Aug 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.75 stars

As a former obituaries writer for the New York Times, Margalit Fox has spent a great deal of time writing about death. (Her obit on the inventor of the plastic lawn flamingo is well worth the read and linked below.) While framed as a biography of Conan Doyle, this book really covers three separate but interrelated subjects: the great man himself, the unsolved murder of a wealthy spinster in Victorian Scotland, and the life of Oscar Slater, a German Jew who was falsely accused of the c
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Stacia
Jan 11, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019, europe
I think this would really appeal to Conan Doyle fans overall. It was fairly interesting as it covered not only Conan Doyle, his activism, & his writing of Sherlock Holmes, but the general state of investigative police work in the early 1900s. (Sadly, there still seem to be some parallels to today where "the other" -- whether race or religion or some other demarcation -- gets railroaded or charged even when innocent.) If you're more interested in the story related to the particular murder its ...more
Tara
Jan 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
An interesting book for both Sherlock Holmes and true crime fans alike, this is a case that will leave you scratching your head and shaking your fist. Oscar Slater, who can be termed the Scottish Dreyfus, was a German Jew who was clearly railroaded in a Victorian murder case that captivated the masses, and led to unwarranted fears of the "other". In steps Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who had a real-life interest in crime cases, and was able to utilize Holmes' inductive reasoning to dismantle shaky ev ...more
Nigeyb
Mar 13, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
'Conan Doyle for the Defence' by Margalit Fox relates the tale of a clear miscarriage of justice. Oscar Slater, a Jewish immigrant, was convicted of the murder of Marion Gilchrist, a wealthy 82 year old spinster, who was found bludgeoned to death in her Glasgow home on 21 December 1908.

An objective review of the evidence clearly demonstrates Oscar Slater’s innocence however, as Margalit Fox explains, ineffectual police techniques, police corruption, racial prejudice, and class stereotypes, all c
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Yibbie
Mar 07, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
There is more in this book about the philosophies and techniques of the Victorian era’s criminal justice system than there is about Doyle’s efforts to clear Slater. With the clarity of hindsight, she criticizes or applauds each move made by all the players. It was interesting, but not quite what I was expecting. We do get some about Doyle. Throughout were interspersed snippets about his public and private life. There were also interesting parallels drawn between the techniques Doyle used to clea ...more
David
May 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-truecrime
Fill in the blank:

Sherlock Holmes uses extraordinary powers of _______________ to solve crimes.

Answer: “deduction”, amirite?

Apparently not. He uses “abduction” (Kindle location 1215).

Abduction? Really? He kidnaps people? That can’t be right.

I understand that Sherlock, if he decided to kidnap someone, would undoubtedly have extraordinary powers, what with being so brainy and all, but abduction, as the average hairpin understands the word, is definitely not in the canon.

As it turns out, we have a
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Schuyler Wallace
May 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing


Margalit Fox is mainly noted as a linguist, serving on many usage panels and boards for language usage handbooks. She also had a long career as writer of obituaries for the New York Times. But wait a minute. She didn’t just hack out death notices. Her tributes to the lives of celebrities and notables were classics. Her work was submitted twice for Pulitzer Prizes.

“Conan Doyle for the Defense” is her third book and has prompted her retirement from the newspaper to concentrate on her book writing
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Rick Mitchell
Aug 16, 2018 rated it it was ok
This would have made a great magazine article. Unfortunately, it was stretched to book length with irrelevant background and redundancy. Frankly, it only got good just after the halfway point. I would estimate that in the first 100 pages, only a dozen were actually about the "sensational British murder". The author also seemed to have an agenda of promoting a negative view of Victorian attitudes that got tiresome.

Having said all that, the background on Conan Doyle and the small bits on the actua
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Deb Jones
Aug 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
This factual account of a man who was arrested and nearly hanged for a murder he did not commit could have been written in modern times except for the fact that forensic science had not yet been introduced. However, society's prejudices lead then to a shoddy police investigation and subsequent prosecution -- something that remains prevalent in modern society.
gem
Mar 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This really needs to be made into a tv show!
If you're like me and love reading fictional murder mysteries or true crime books, this is a must read as it offers both a fascinating plot and lots of little insights that I haven't read before.
I've read a lot of Conan-Doyle, Agatha Christie and Robin Stevens books and I now have a new author to read.
Thanks to netgalley for the chance to read this.
Rod Innis
Nov 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
A well-written book about an actual event in the life of Arthur Conan Doyle the author of many books about the famous fictional detective Sherlock Holmes. I thoroughly enjoyed all of the Sherlock Holmes stories ( I have read most of them several times) So this book intrigued me as it gave quite a lot of insight into the author of some of my favourite stories.
I won't provide any spoilers but if you enjoyed the Sherlock Holmes stories you more than likely will enjoy this book.
Janice
Jun 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a fascinating book. It delivers a true crime “mystery “ solved by the great Conan Doyle (creator of the famous Sherlock Holmes) presented within the social context of Victorian England. I enjoyed this very much - it was engrossing and certainly well-written.
My thanks to NetGalley for providing me with an arc in exchange for my honest review.
Tiffany
Jun 16, 2018 rated it liked it
An interesting read. While I originally expected more information about Conan Doyle, I did not find myself very disappointed by the lack of said expectations being met. A lot of information about the case, the time period, Doyle, and society was encompassed in the pages of this work. I would recommend this to anyone interested in true crime, sociology, turn of the century studies, and readers of Conon Doyle
Kathy Cunningham
Apr 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Margalit Fox’s CONAN DOYLE FOR THE DEFENSE is a fascinating look at the social and political world of late Victorian England. The book focuses on Arthur Conan Doyle’s efforts to free a man wrongfully imprisoned for a murder he did not commit. But what’s most interesting is the justice system in the early 1900’s, and how fraught it was with prejudice, especially anti-Semitism, class warfare, and distrust of foreigners. Sound familiar? Yes, it does.

In 1908, a wealthy, elderly woman was brutally m
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Anne Morgan
Jun 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Conan Doyle for the Defense tell the true story of the violent murder of Marion Gilchrist and the wrongful imprisonment of Oscar Slater for the crime, despite his clear innocence. Conan Doyle created one of the most famous detectives of all literature with his Sherlock Holmes. Yet less well known is that, thanks to Holmes' fame, Conan Doyle himself also occasionally stepped in on cases where he thought he could be of use. Oscar Slater's is one of those cases. The brutal murder of Marion Gilchris ...more
Cleo Bannister
Jul 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Conan Doyle for the Defence was a real treat for someone who loves historical true crime and into the bargain I got to know a little more about the creator of Sherlock Holmes.

The true crime is the brutal murder of Marion Gilchrist. A wealthy elderly spinster who lived in a secure apartment, almost paranoid about her precious jewels being stolen. She was pretty much estranged from most of her family and lived with her maid Helen Lambie in a tightly organised fashion as you’d expect from a woman o
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Caroline
Jan 08, 2019 rated it it was ok
I find the premise of this book fascinating! I never realized the author of Sherlock Holmes actually did a bit of amateur detective work, making Holmesian deductions on the basis of seemingly scanty evidence! This book told the tale of a particular case Conan Doyle became involved in. Chapter 15, which described the deductions he made in this case, was very good. His deductions were impressive in a way that Holmes's never were, since I always suspected Holmes wouldn't have been so successful in ...more
Melet
Nov 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Such an interesting book! My husband picked it up for me as I am interested in all things Conan Doyle and Sherlockian, and it is a great narrative of a real life case on which CD cleared a man wrongfully convicted. But, unexpectedly, it is also a spot-on treatise on racial profiling and the difference between criminalistics (what we would call today forensics) and criminology (which was a popular theory relating to two primary ideas: one, that criminals were born that way and could not be rehabi ...more
Tony
Aug 27, 2018 rated it liked it
CONAN DOYLE FOR THE DEFENSE. (2018). Margalit Fox. ***.
Aside from being the greatest detective writer of all times, Conan Doyle was seriously interested in other areas. One of them was the occult, or supernatural. The other was championing lost causes. In this case, he became the champion of a German Jew who was wrongly convicted of a brutal murder of a woman, and sentenced to life in a Scottish prison. I had read of his efforts in this defense before, but it is not well known. In this review, D
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Beth Greenwood
Oct 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very nice piece of popular nonfiction, well-written and well-paced. The case involved the wrongful conviction of a man for a particularly shocking murder and the involvement of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, using some Holmesian methods, to try to get the conviction overturned. I’m a sucker for anything involving Sherlock Holmes, but I appreciated that his inclusion wasn’t just to boost sales from suckers like me - there really were connections between the philosophy of the Holmes stories an ...more
Becky Loader
Nov 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Ever wonder how Sir Arthur Conan Doyle dreamed up Sherlock Holmes? There are a lot of answers here for you.

Conan Doyle trained to be a medical doctor in a time when observation was highly prized. He studied under a doctor who had great diagnostic skills because he observed symptoms and deduced what was wrong with the patient by analysis--backwards from the symptom. Conan Doyle employed this same type of skill in his famous fictional detective. He also used it to help prove the innocence of a man
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I am a senior writer at The New York Times originally trained as a linguist, and I've been lucky enough to be able to combine my vocation with my avocation by writing narrative nonfiction books about language.

My new book, "The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code," the story of the race to decipher the mysterious Bronze Age script known as Linear B, will be published on May
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“The fictitious world, to which Sherlock Holmes belonged, expected of him what the real world of the day expected of its scientists: more light and more justice. As the creation of a doctor who had been soaked in the rationalist thought of the period, the Holmesian cycle offers us for the first time the spectacle of a hero triumphing again and again by means of logic and scientific method. And the hero’s prowess is as marvellous as the power of science, which many people hoped would lead to a material and spiritual improvement of the human condition, and Conan Doyle first among them. —PIERRE NORDON, Conan Doyle: A Biography, 1966” 1 likes
“By the late nineteenth century, as British cities teemed with new inhabitants, crime rates rose and more established residents came to be afflicted with a new, urban, and distinctly modern anxiety. For the middle and upper classes, it centered acutely on the protection of property, coalescing in particular around city dwellers who were not members of the bourgeoisie. These included the working class, the poor, new immigrants, and Jews, all of whom were viewed increasingly as agents of social contagion - a threat in urgent need of containment.” 1 likes
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