Fiction Meeting Fact - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Connects to the Crimes of Today

Term Paper, 2006
14 Pages

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Fiction meeting Fact

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Connects to the Crimes of Today

The world is a large complex place. In it there are six billion people. Some of these people are good and lead average lives, some people are bad and commit acts of unspeakable nature, and still others are of a select few who’s purpose in life is to stop those who do evil. In both fact and in fiction this previous statement is true, the good, the bad, and the just. Often, the two worlds of fact and fiction come together in an exchange of ideas, mostly in the sense that fact takes something from fiction to accomplish something. These true crimes have exceedingly true relations to the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novels featuring Sherlock Holmes and the real world of detectives and criminal forensics. The modern day detective uses many aspects of the fictional Holmes novels in real life criminal inventions. What were thought only to be clever fictional ways of solving a case were actually the makings for the crime solving process of today. In order to see the remarkable applications of these novels in a modern day setting,one must first know who Doyle was and where he was coming from as well as different aspects of crime solving, both forensic and detectively speaking. After one understands these two things, it will be possible to understand both the Holmes cases and the modern day applications.

To understand the principles in a story is to understand the author of the story. To understand Holmes is to understand Doyle. To come to a conclusion about Doyle, his early life must be analyzed along with all that inspired him in the creative process of creating Sherlock Holmes. Finally one must become acquainted with his works in relation to Dr. Holmes. Through these ways one can fully understand not only Doyle but also Holmes and the ideas are applied to the modern world.

As with most great people there is a beginning. Doyle’s beginning starts in England, where he was born in 1859. His father Charles was a civil servant as well as a crime scene and trial artist. His mother Mary encouraged young Arthur’s education and interest in books. As Arthur grew up he began writing his novels about the famed detective Sherlock Holmes. He gathered inspiration for his beloved character from three key places. The first and most prominently displayed inspiration was from his professor at the university where Doyle became a doctor, named Joseph Bell, who was famous for his logic and deduction. Less prominently displayed was E.A. Poe’s character detective Dupin and a thief turned criminal catcher Eugene Videq. Through this means of inspection the super sleuth known as Sherlock Holmes was created by Doyle (HolmsOnline).

After the creation of Holmes, the stories could be written. Doyle began professional writing in 1891, however his first story featuring Sherlock Holmes was written in 1887. From that time on Holmes became a family favorite. Holmes was found in books and magazines as well as numerous other sources. In fact until Doyle died it was hard for him to get away from the legacy of the great detective. Even after the death of Doyle, Holmes has lived on in countless other capers performed in both modern and contemporary styles, all of which do their best to rub off on the world that they are based in (Kirjasto).

The world of today is one of good and evil, wrong and right, the unjust and the just. On the side of the unjust there is the vile scum who cause harm and suffering for their own self serving purposes. However on the side of the just there are the men and women who, through wit and cunning, are able to foil the fowl actions of the wicked and bring justice to the unjust. These choice members of the side of food are those whose purpose in life is to solve crimes. The crime solvers or rather crime analysts can be divided into two separate fields of expertise. The first is in forensics, which is a highly scientific way of solving crimes involving a lot of textbook knowledge. The second of the two fields of expertise is in detective work which is based more on cleaver deduction and piecing together a puzzle that is a crime committed. It is by these ways that a crime is solved in the modern times.

Science has been the base for solving problems throughout the world for hundreds of years. All of often when one thinks of science he or she thinks of how science helps the world, the thoughts go to the work of medicine and medical doctors or the world of mechanics with the massive structures and machines that are able to be produced. Rarely does the mind look at the scientific field of study known as forensics, which is “the application scientific disciplines to the law” (Lyle 8). In more clear words forensics is using the many aspects of science such as, DNA analysis and the microscope, (Platt 60-63, 80) to look at a crime scene, analyze it, and in all hopes help solve the case. While in earlier times this was not a well-practiced or respected discipline, in modern times it has become invaluable to crime solving and criminal detection (Lyle 9).

Not unlike forensics, the work of a detective is also vital to the success of a crime analyzing team, but while the forensics team is simple there to analyze and interpret the evidence it is the detectives that must go out and use the evidence collected to hunt down the suspects and catch the criminal. “There is no hunting like the hunting of man” (Racklin 17). This quote stated by Ernest Hemingway is the mantra by which a criminal detective lives by as it is in fact a hunt that he or she embarks on daily to capture the perpetrators of crimes. Each of these crimes are of a different nature, some being homicides, i.e. murder, some being rape, and some being kidnapping, as well as numerous other types of crimes but in all major crimes it is the detectives job to hunt down the criminals using his or her own wit to out smart the crooks and bring in the bad guys (Kurland 28).

Once one understands, who Doyle was and where the character of Sherlock Holmes came from along with the knowledge of a crime scene and its elements in regards to who solves the crimes and how they do it, then one will be able to understand the different crimes that are solved by Holmes in Doyle’s stories and how they correspond to the crimes of the real world. The relations between the two are in fact deeply connected in that the deduction methods used in the stories are similar if not the game as the methods used in the modern day analysis of a crime scene and detective work. To make this comparison extremely evident, an in depth comparison between the two, both story and real life must be done. To accomplish this, first examples of correspondence will be given, each showing how a Holmes case parallels a modern technique. The first of the five will show how Holmes process of elimination is similar in modern detective profiling. The second will show how Holmes used blood patterns to solve cases similar to today’s forensic use of blood patterns. The third will analyze body placement and its relevance to a crime scene in both worlds. The fourth will lay out how both fiction and fact make use of undercover work or the “sting” operation. The fifth and final comparison will be made through the most profound similarity, which is in both story and modern worlds use of fingerprints and handwritings. By these five ways a thorough comparison can be made.

Finding the answer to a riddle is the essential role of a detective. The riddle can be a crime to solve or something else of that nature. In either case the great detective Sherlock Holmes must use all of the skills he has at his disposal to accomplish his task of solving a case. One of the most important skills Holmes has as a detective is the ability to use the process of elimination or profiling to deduce what is a possible answer to the questions of the case and what impossible answers are. In his case titled “The Sign of the Four” in which Holmes must solve the mystery of a women’s father, who had disappeared when he returned from India to England to meet his daughter (Doyle102-115) Holmes makes this process evident in his deduction process as well as how he uses profiling, “Ho often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth”. (Doyle 111). By analyzing the facts Holmes is able to eliminate suspects and unnecessary evidence, which inevitably will lead him to the answer that solves the case.

Without any distinguishable differences Holmes process of elimination and profiling transfers in an almost mirror image to the modern world of criminal detection. Like Holmes use of profiling and the process of elimination, modern profilers use similar techniques to “narrow the field of investigation” (Campbell 14). In the Holmes novels the good detective would look at certain elements of the crime to determine whom the killer could and could not be. In the same way criminal profilers as they are called look at specific elements of a crime such as: type of entry, things taken from a crime scene, and other strange things about crime scenes like signatures (Lyle 49, 66, 67). Through these things, along with others, modern criminal profilers are able to, like Holmes, pinpoint specific attributes about a perpetrator and thus increase the odds of the good guys finding out the answers to a case and in most times catch the wrongdoer and end their reign of terror.

While Holmes primary way of deduction of a crime scene was through careful profiling of the scene, the profile could not have been reached without the use of many techniques, one of which being able to analyze blood patterns and placement. Blood often plays a key role in many of the Holmes mysteries as it would seem that the detective can not go too far without running into murders which in most cases have something in the way of blood evidence in them. One such story as the name may suggest is titled “A study in Scarlet”. In this story a body is found in immaculate condition yet is surrounded by a room covered blood (Doyle 69-84). Though the use of the blood evidence in regards to its placement and spatter the brilliant detective is not only able to thoroughly profile the suspect but also inevitably solve the case (Doyle 77-83).

In a similar fashion, if not with more expressed importance, blood evidence plays a critical role in the solving of modern crimes. The greatest similarity between the Holmes cases and the modern world can be seen in blood stain patterns and splatter. Blood pattern are described as patterns that can be connected to the way and method by which the blood got to its location from the location of the initial crime. Depending on the size or shape of the blood spatter a crime scene analyst can tell certain things about a crime and how it was committed (Lyle 89-95). It is by this method of crime scene analysis that the famous Dr. Henry Lee solved the Suzan Barrett case where the crime scene was covered in blood stains (Lee 267-284). This modern case bares a shocking resemblance to the Holmes case “A study in Scarlett”. In both cases, great detectives were able to solve a case based on the blood splatter evidence left at a scene of a crime. Modern crime scene analysts have taken Holmes work to a new level of blood analysis by using blood to match DNA to a certain victim or culprit; who nearly always leaves a part of him or herself behind, however all blood analysis can trace its roots back to Holmes and the blood spatter analysis.

Blood evidence is an important aspect of a crime however in some cases it is not present. This would seem to be a problem to most people but to the great detective Sherlock Holmes it simply means he must use a different method, one of which can be the analysis of the body of the deceased victim and how it is positioned at time of death. The best example of post mortem, the term used for a body after death, (Lyle 164) body placement analysis by Holmes is found in “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” in which Holmes is contracted to solve the mystery behind the death of Helen Stomers sister Julie Stomer (Doyle 258-270). While Holmes is never able to see the actual body he is given a detailed description of how the body was laid out at time of death, “She stabbed her finger into the air in the direction of the doctor’s room” “She was in her night dress. In her right hand was found the charred stump of a match and in her left a match box” (Doyle 262). Holmes was able to use this evidence to reconstruct the scene of the crime and the events that unfurled there prior to the death of the victim and in the end solve the case. All this was thanks to the brilliant analysis of the body position by Sherlock Holmes.

As important as it was in the Sherlock Holmes case, the body and its placement in relation to a crime scene in the modern real world is even more so important. In modern forensic analysis of the body of a victim in a crime, or even a suspect for that matter, is able to tell a lot about a crime scene. Three main things a crime scene investigator will hope to find by looking at a body are; how and why the death happened, this means checking for motive which can be found in how lavishly the victim is dressed or what the body may have had on them at the time, an example being the burned up match; next a investigator will analyze the body to see who or what caused the events and for what reason, if it were personal the cause of death would be up close and personal, if random it could be less personal (Lyle 66). This coupled with how the body is positioned such as pointing in a specific direction could help in picking out the type of suspect. Lastly an investigator will look at the exact cause of death, in murders a CSI might link a cut or bruise to a specific weapon, like a speckled band, which is a snake, which would make it easier to link a suspect to a crime (Lyle 131-132). In this style of crime scene analysis Holmes and modern forensics are similar, the only minor difference is that Holmes’ crime scene was destroyed where as modern crime scenes for the most part are preserved by police personnel (Genge 5,6). This is only a minor difference and in both cases the crime is still solved.

While a body can tell plenty of information about a crime, in some cases there is no body, no evidence but simply a crime scene and the knowledge of a crime being committed, in which case one of the most legendary aspects of a detectives job can be implied, that being the undercover operation also know as a “sting”. Holmes, being a detective, excels at undercover work and none of his stories show this better than “The Man with the Twisted Lip”. In this story a man disappears and is presumed dead however it is left to the great detective Holmes to find out the truth. In order to accomplish his task he goes undercover as an old man and visits an opium bar in order to find out more information about his case (Doyle 239-248). Through his undercover work he is able to find out some information which along with other things leads him to finding out the truth behind what is alleged to be a suicide but rather it was nothing more that a father, who is wrongfully being held in prison for his own murder at the end of the story looking out for the mental well being of his children (Doyle 243).

As nice as the ending in the Holmes story was, the modern day application of this undercover technique tends to have the subjects being searched for, put in jail, rather than letting out. However the techniques implied by Holmes are similar to the ones used in modern times by undercover detectives. The modern application of undercover work or a sting is one designed to target specific people or groups of people by way of infiltrating the trust of the criminals without their knowledge and then using this trust to learn of the criminal’s activities and ultimately bring them to justice (Champion 6). An example of this, without using any specific details for safety purposes, would be for a female police detective to pose as a prostitute on the street, then falsely solicit to men, bring them to a hotel room where the men are arrested by uniformed officers on prostitution charges (Anaheim). While the goal of Holmes and the goals of the modern undercover detective are different, the techniques used by both of them are incredibly similar in that both groups had to disguise themselves as something they are not in order to bring about justice.

All other similarities aside, including the thoughts found in undercover operations, the most profound similarity between the Holmes novels and modern criminal investigations lies in the criminal’s hands, more specifically the criminal’s handwriting and fingerprints. The most obvious story in which these two incriminating elements come into play is the strong titled “The Adventure of the Norwood Builder”. The story is laid out as such, a wealthy man named Jonas Oldacre was supposedly killed by John McFarlane after Oldacre left McFarlane his fortune in a will, Holmes feels that McFarlane is innocent and takes the case (Doyle 499-511). The first thing to come into question is the authenticity of the will itself. Holmes analyzes the rough draft supposedly written by Oldacre while on a train trip. Holmes through looking at the handwriting declares the authenticity of the will as the handwriting corresponds with the actions of a train, messier when the train moves, neater when it is stopped (Doyle 501). The next technique to be deployed is the use of fingerprints to match suspects. In the story Holmes states “no two thumb-marks are alike” after which he compares McFarlanes print to one found on a wall at which point Holmes discovers they are a match (Doyle 506). At first this hurts Holmes case, but by the end of the story it is revealed that the murder was staged by Oldacre and that he is still alive (Doyle 508-510).

Holmes applications of handwriting analysis and fingerprint distinction are the most similar of all his techniques to those that are implied today by modern criminalists. In fact they are not simply similar but rather they are exactly the same in style and application. Holmes handwriting analysis where he looks at the handwriting on a document to discover the location of its composition and the author is the same as what contemporary criminal handwriting examiners do. They take documents such as the one written by the uni-bomber and compare them to documents of similar nature in order to find out more about the author. In doing this they can narrow down whom the criminal is as well as different aspects about him or her (Genge 112-113). Fingerprints are used in a similar fashion. In the Holmes case the detective is able to compare fingerprints found at a crime scene to a suspects fingerprint to see if there is any need to continue pursuing the suspect by seeing if he was at the crime scene. In an identical fashion today’s fingerprint analysts use fingerprints to place suspects at the scene of a crime by matching the suspect’s unchangeable print to one that is found at the crime scene (Kurland 88). In both handwriting and fingerprint analysis a likeness is formed between that of the Holmes stories and of the real criminal investigators of today.

Criminal activity will always take place in the world, both in fiction and in fact. While crime will never cease from preying on the innocent victims of society, the people of the world can always have hope in the men and women that bring justice to the world. Whether in fiction with the great detective Sherlock Holmes who through his own methods, which mirror those used today, is able to solve the case; or in fact where modern crime scene analysis and detectives use their methods, which reflect back on to the techniques used by Holmes, to solve the crimes of today’s modern world. In either case the two are interchangeable. Because the methods of deduction are similar, the purpose in the world is similar. That purpose stems from deep within them as character and real human. That universal purpose is to take down the bad guys, solve the case and bring justice to there worlds.


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Fiction Meeting Fact - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Connects to the Crimes of Today
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Noah Daniels (Author), 2006, Fiction Meeting Fact - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Connects to the Crimes of Today, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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