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Sherlock Holmes: The Unauthorized Biography

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  1,798 ratings  ·  40 reviews
In this new unauthorised biography, Nick Rennison challenges the pevious account of Sherlock Holmes by Dr John Watson to present a brilliant portrait of the man behind the magnifying glass.

Sherlock Holmes blends what we already know of the great sleuth's career with carefully documented social history to answer the questions admirers have long puzzled over. It was Holmes's
Hardcover, 280 pages
Published December 31st 2005 by Atlantic Books (UK) (first published June 1st 2005)
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4.26  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,798 ratings  ·  40 reviews

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Aug 13, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
This is a very "rich" book; full of facts and details trying to create a complete life for Sherlock Holmes. As the author as biographer notes, there are 56 short stories and 4 longer ones as written by Watson (a couple penned by SH) and published through Conan Doyle. That's not much when you consider it spans a working life of more than 25 years. (Of course no pastiche, no matter how well-written is used as material for this book.) It is to fill in the blanks in both Holmes' ancestry and long li ...more
The most delightful thing about this book is the sheer glee the author seems to be taking in rolling around in his Holmesy geekery. That enthusiasm is enough to pull me through the slightly dull bits when he's recapping history just because he can, only loosely tied to the story he's crafted for Holmes.

Definitely quasi-academic and not really curl-up-on-a-rainy-day sort of reading, but more than amusing enough to hold my attention in the fits and spurts I gave it.
Apr 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5-stars, biography
My real complaint about this book is that I read it on my Kindle, which makes it difficult to flip back and forth to re-read parts. But this is a good-fun-read for any 'lightweight' fan of Sherlock Holmes and brings a sense of realism to the character.

The best thing about it? It made me realise just how much I love the Sherlock Holmes stories and I am going to dig out my copy and read his adventures again.

Five stars for bringing Sherlock to life for me.
the research put into this book is incredible and with the background fabricated by rennison, you sometimes forget that sherlock holmes is a fictional character. this book really has very little to do with arthur conan doyle and much more to do with siphoning holmes' character from all of his documented adventures and making him as well-rounded and tangible as he could be. this book even fills in the gap in the time between stories, including the two year gap between reichenbach falls to his re- ...more
May 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am speachless at the detail and history in the story that was presented. I loved it, every word, but I am sorry, I cannot believe it. I want to, more than I can say, but no, it is still fiction. Steller fiction at that.

Autor ciekawie wplata prawdziwe fragmenty historii XIX-wiecznego Imperium Brytyjskiego w fikcyjną opowieść o życiu jedynego na świecie detektywa-doradcy (konsultanta). Książka jest skarbnicą wiedzy o sprawach kryminalnych i skandalach XIX-wiecznej Wielkiej Brytanii ( kłopoty z Irlandią). Pomijając wzmianki o fikcyjnych postaciach wymyślonych przez sir Arthura Conan Doyle'a, można wiele nauczyć się z przekazu Nicka Rennisona.
Czytelnik gubi się w domysłach, co jest fikcją literacką, a co fakt
Greg Kerestan
Aug 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A decidedly useful reference for the Great Game, Rennison's faux biography of Holmes fills in many of the blanks with plausible and compelling "evidence" of Holmes's unrecorded life and interactions. Perhaps the only black mark against it is how dogmatic Rennison is to some of his own interpretations, bringing up traditional theories or hypotheses about Holmes only to shoot them down as improbable.
Jan 11, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018-books-read
More about the various players, or suspected players, in the mysteries than Holmes.
Mar 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, mystery
Brilliant story! I had a lot of fun reading this.
Rena Sherwood
It just amazes me that books like this can get published. What was the point of this book? It's not exactly fiction and it's not exactly a take-off of William S. Baring-Gould. It's not funny and it's not inspired and it adds nothing to the Sherlock Holmes universe. If Sherlock Holmes was real and had relations were still alive, they should sue.


The Sherlock Holmes described in this book is not recognizable as the Holmes in the Canon. However, this book helped get me drowsy enough to go to sleep,
Luciana Darce
Comprei esse livro para completer número numa promoção da Better World Books – e porque fiquei curiosa para saber o que diabos alguém escreveria numa biografia de Sherlock Holmes...

É um livro bizarro, mas serviu para me introduzir a alguns fatos históricos que eu desconhecia – e que ajudam a entender, por exemplo, o desprezo de Holmes pelos detetives da Scotland Yard (especialmente nas primeiras histórias) e o significado das viagens dele durante o período do Grande Hiato.

Algumas teorias apresen

I LOVED the idea of this book. And I am just having the hardest time putting my finger on why I didn't really enjoy it that much.

It wasn't too long and wasn't grueling to read. But I found myself annoyed with the very thing I thought I would enjoy--placing Sherlock Holmes into the real world of the time his tales were set. Partly it's that the author didn't (or wasn't able to) come up with enough real evidence to support the "biographical account." So instead it all comes across as assumptio
Kevin de Ataíde
Jan 18, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
More a history of the Victorian era than a biography, this book is a marvellous attempt to piece together the involvement of the fictional detective in the civil and criminal life of the City over the last decades of the nineteenth and the first of the twentieth century. It almost seems believable through the book that Holmes was a historical figure. Given that the only information we seem to have about Holmes is from the few publications made by Arthur Conan Doyle as given by Holmes' friend and ...more
Mar 15, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book really appealed to my loves of fiction, history and biography. I have read the Sherlock Holmes stories for many years, and although their plots and denouements are sometimes a little hard to swallow, I have always been fascinated by the characters of Holmes and Watson themselves. This “biography” is an extremely detailed blending of real history and fiction, something akin to the Indiana Jones stories with footnotes. I learned new facts of Victorian era history and gained a greater fee ...more
Kathy  Petersen
I've been fond of Sherlock Holmes ever since my mom let me, age 10 or so, confiscate her library card when I'd gone through most of the children's section. This highly entertaining, well researched, and well written pseudo-biography brought back good reading memories and the compulsion to go back to those clever stories I've been reading for decades.

Rennison does a superb job of putting together all the pieces of Holmes' life -- all the ones he can find, that is -- as well as Mycroft's and Wats
Edoardo Albert
Feb 17, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having finished this biography of the eminent Victorian, one is left with mixed feelings about Holmes's Boswell, Dr Watson. Without his testimony, we would know next to nothing about Holmes's remarkable career, for Mr Rennison's exhaustive researches have revealed remarkably few other references to Holmes in the records of the time. But if only Dr Watson had been as diligent a biographer as James Boswell, what an insight he would have given us into the late-Victorian/Edwardian era! As it is, we ...more
Jul 18, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I got about halfway through and gave up. I'm sure the author put a lot of work into this book, but I just didn't like it. It was deadly boring up until the Jack the Ripper chapter, which I struggled to get to. That chapter was mildly interesting, but without much payoff, interest-wise, as to who Holmes thought the Ripper was. The very next chapter after that throws a little bit of mud of Holmes.

When you can make the life of Sherlock Holmes deadly boring, when your chapter on Sherlock Holmes figu
Theresa Leone Davidson
So you decide you want to be an author, only perhaps you have a somewhat limited imagination and no original story to tell. What do you do? Use the creation and the mysteries of another author(the more successful the better, so use Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) and use his most well known character, in this case Sherlock Holmes, and write a fictional biography of his life. Throw in some real people who were alive during the same time period Sherlock sleuthed and voila! You've got yourself a book! OK, ...more
Dec 26, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Sherlock Holmes fans
Shelves: realistic
This is a 3.5 star rating, bumped up by the obvious ingenuity and careful crafting by the author. I highly recommend this book for anyone who has ever taken the time to look up the background surrounding the Holmes stories. I think it speaks the the excellence of the book, and some of the problems, that my main problem with it was how difficult it was to untangle the parts invented by the author from the meticulous historical research obviously undertaken by the author.

I read this at the same ti
What Rennison does here is both hilarious and at time a bit tedious -- he treats Sherlock Holmes and Watson and Mycroft as actual historical figures and, drawing from the Arthur Conan Doyle stories, actual historical events, and his imagination, he creates an entire backstory for Holme and co. The approach is seriously deadpan, but the writing is so fluid and academic that it mostly works. Obviously, the more you know about the Sherlock Holmes stories and about Victorian England, the more you'll ...more
Kathy  Petersen
Can a biography of a fictional character be classified as nonfiction ... Of course, when it's a character as indisputably real as Sherlock Homes.

But Rennison does much more than scribble down the "facts" of Holmes' life. He explores the culture and historic events that are the context of Holmes' times, even including what he was doing during that Great Hiatus after the Reichenbach Falls incident.

Great fun for a Sherlock fan.
May 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This has been attempted before, but not so perfectly or successfully. A biography of Holmes as a real character, seamlessly woven into real characters and facts of his era, until it could fool even very seasoned Sherlockians- with reflreshing views into much tackled issues like Holmes and Jack the Ripper, the Great Hiatus or "friends" like Wilde or Conan Doyle himself. A great work of research to feed the imagination- it may sound paradoxical but it is not. Wonderful.
Ana-Maria Petre
Dec 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For an admirer of Sherlock Holmes, it is a beautiful book in which you can immerse and forget that he is just a character. At the moment I first read it I wasn't even sure it was not about a real person. Nick Rennison is amazingly well-documented and the book has the true ring of an authentic biography. It deals with many aspects of Holmes's life, such as his childhood, sexuality or social relationships, as well as the historical background. One of the books I keep close to my heart.
Jun 11, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: serious herlock Holmes fans
Recommended to Karen by: found it in the library
I finished it. It wasn't bad but I do not recommend it for anyone who has not read all Sherlock Holmes books/stories. Written from the premise that Holmes and Watson were real and the stories of Doyle were based on real crimes and mysteries from 1880 to 1920 as related to Doyle via Watson with Holmes' approval. There is the tie to British governemnt inovlvement in some matters and that Holmes elusive brother played a part. Immense detail that can overwhelm the story.
May 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biographies
An interesting biography about the probably best known fictional character. It ties together facts and fiction nicely so that you think you are reading about a real person. The only thing that irked me a little was that every major character that touched Holmes's life gets at least a summoned up mini-biography in this book.
Jul 04, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book was eh. I didn't hate it but I didn't particularly enjoy it. It was just about getting through it for me. I can't put my finger on what exactly put me off but it was just not my cup of tea. there is one thing that I know put me off and that was the writer's tone and style. I found it a little bit pompous and at times very pretentious and that made the going rough.
Hmm. Niby fajny zabieg z (spoilers!) uczynieniem z Holmesa i Watsona postaci historycznych, ale z drugiej strony regularne "dopychanie" stron historiami rzeczywistych postaci mających nieduży z nimi związek wydaje się drobnym oszustwem. Ale czyta się przyjemnie.
May 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fun dive into the Sherlockian view of the character as a living, breathing person. The biography premise began to wear a bit thin as I neared the conclusion but still worth it for the literary Sherlock fan.
Feb 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great reference for those interested in Sherlock Holmes, Victorian England, and Edwardian England. Rennison's writing style was wonderful. I enjoyed how he was able to meld fiction and fact into a very descriptive and interesting narrative.

Jun 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed it. I like the idea of treating fictional characters as real people. It makes my crushes on them more substantial. What? I didn't say that. But for real guys, this book was well researched and wrote.
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Nick Rennison is a writer, editor and bookseller. His books include Sherlock Holmes: An Unauthorised Biography, Robin Hood: Myth, History, Culture, The Bloomsbury Good Reading Guide and 100 Must-Read Historical Novels. He is a regular reviewer of historical fiction for both The Sunday Times and BBC History Magazine.