Monday, May 23, 2011

Book Review: The Devil and Sherlock Holmes, David Grann

           What do Sherlock Holmes, giant squid, and over-the-hill bank robbers have in common?  They are all featured in David Grann’s The Devil and Sherlock Holmes.  Beginning with the tale of the mysterious death of the world’s foremost Sherlock Holmes expert, and ending with “The Devil” (a Haitian terrorist) selling real estate in New York City, this collection of articles from The NewYorker runs the gamut of bizarre stories. Some are heartbreaking, others are fascinating, and all are true; thus proving Sherlock’s belief that “Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent.”

            I honestly had a hard time finishing this book. To be fair, journalism is not my favorite genre, and several times I felt bogged down with details that didn’t seem to further the plot.  A few articles, like “Stealing Time,” simply did not hold my attention.  But the bigger problem was that the disturbing tales of capital punishment gone wrong, prison gangs, and entire cities controlled by the mob are all true.  Grann is an extremely talented journalist, and all of his articles are well written, but not all are for the faint of heart.  Several of Grann’s interviews contain graphic language, so I can’t recommend this book for younger audiences.  I did enjoy the pieces with a lighter tone, especially “The Old Man and the Gun,” which is about a “gentleman bank robber” who pulled off his last heist at the age of 79. I also appreciated the afterward in most of the pieces, which updated the reader of any developments in the story since the article was originally written.  Even though many of the articles were hard for me to read, they were even more difficult to put down.  I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the more unusual side of life.

*Book provided by BookDivas   

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