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Conan Doyle for the Defence: A Sensational…

Conan Doyle for the Defence: A Sensational Murder, the Quest for Justice… (edition 2018)

by Margalit Fox (author) (Author)

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953184,725 (3.85)4
Title:Conan Doyle for the Defence: A Sensational Murder, the Quest for Justice and the World's Greatest Detective Writer
Authors:Margalit Fox (author) (Author)
Info:Profile Books Ltd (2018), Edition: Main
Collections:Your library
Tags:Sherlock Holmes, Victorian History

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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 by Margalit Fox



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I was vaguely aware that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was, at times, consulted to solve crimes before I read Conan Doyle for the Defense by Margalit Fox. I watched the series Arthur & George (2015) a few years ago that introduced me to this aspect of Doyle, which I knew nothing about. So, when this book crossed my path, I was more than eager to read it. After all, it checked off several of my interest boxes: true crime, history, one of the greatest mystery writers of all time (according to my subjective opinion).

I was immediately blown away by the way that Margalit Fox laid out the story for the readers. Its narrative read as well as any good fiction book, only everything in the book really happened. If you're looking for a book strictly about Doyle, you will be disappointed. Though, I did walk away from this book with a better understanding of the author. This book is mainly about Oscar Slater, who was accused of a crime he didn't commit, jailed, and the author who pleaded for his case to be overturned.

In 1908, Marion Gilchrist, a wealthy old lady, was murdered in her Glasgow home. A diamond broach was found missing and the police had only one suspect in mind--Oscar Slater. Even though Slater had an alibi, he was still found guilty of the crime. His only 'crime' seemed to be that he was Jewish and had a disreputable character.

After reading about the case, Doyle became obsessed by the great injustice done to this man. He used the methods made famous by Sherlock Holmes to help solve the mystery of what really happened so that Slater could go free. He spent his time talking to witnesses, looking over transcripts, noting the inconsistencies in the police statement (oh yes, you will find many wtf moments when you read it.), and more. It's amazing how the case affected so many aspects of the justice system as well as police procedure when investigating a crime.

The injustice that was done to Oscar Slater is a story that should never be repeated, but sadly it is. The Edwardian anti-immigration, religious, and ethnic bias is still alive and well today. Slater spent many years in prison, hoping that Doyle would be able to help him win his freedom, which he did. And while this story has a happier ending than it could of had, it wasn't without cost.

Conan Doyle for the Defense by Margalit Fox is a fascinating and informative read. I'm grateful for all the time Fox spent in the archives researching this book. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, like Sherlock Holmes, was an incredible detective. I absolutely recommend this book for your next read!

Sidebar: Arthur & George is really good as well. It's based on the book by the same name, which I haven't read, by Julian Barnes. But I've added it to my wishlist, so maybe one day I'll get to it.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. This has in no way influenced my opinions.

Read more at http://www.toreadornottoread.net/2018/08/review-conan-doyle-for-defense.html#wHt... ( )
  mt256 | Aug 26, 2018 |
As the title of this book suggests, this is the account of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s involvement in solving a murder case that very nearly ended in the death of an innocent man. While the sentence was commuted by other means, it was Conan Doyle’s sleuthing that ended up actually clearing the accused of the crime.

The situation was this: a wealthy Glasgow woman was found murdered in her flat. She was brutally beaten to death and some of her jewels, including a crescent-shaped diamond brooch, were stolen. Robbery seemed to be the motive.

The police thought they had their man when they found out that Oscar Slater, a recent arrival who also happened to be something of a gambler or lower-class fellow, had redeemed a pawn ticket for a crescent-shaped diamond brooch. But the brooch turned out to be a different one, having been put into hock a month before the murder. With that clue not panning out, you’d think that would be enough to let Slater off the hook. Not so. The police determined that Slater, being a low-class man, a German, and Jewish, was guilty enough and proceeded to stitch him up for the crime.

While Slater served a life sentence in prison (his original sentence of hanging was commuted to hard labour at Peterhead), his case was brought to the attention of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who used the methods of Sherlock Holmes to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Slater was not the killer.

Margalit Fox tells the story of the crime and Conan Doyle’s sleuthing with flair and enriches it with enough context to connect the story to the bigger picture without overwhelming the reader with extra information. I’d recommend this to those who liked the Julian Barnes novel Arthur & George, which tells of Conan Doyle’s other real-life detecting triumph; true-crime enthusiasts; those with a fondness for Glasgow; and Sherlock Holmes fans. ( )
  rabbitprincess | Jul 29, 2018 |
This is the meticulously documented account of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's involvement in trying to free a man wrongfully committed to a life sentence for murder. Oscar Slater was a German immigrant in London, a somewhat shady and disagreeable character, so when a wealthy elderly woman was murdered, the police were happy to use circumstantial evidence against him to get him sentenced first to death and then to life. It became clear to many, including Doyle, that the evidence did not match the crime and that Slater was clearly innocent. Nonetheless, it took more than two decades to get him released from prison. Margalit Fox used this story to portray the criminal justice system in early 20th century London, as well as the prejudices and shortcomings of forensics at the time. Fans of Sherlock Holmes will be intrigued by Doyle's own approach to crime solving. ( )
  sleahey | May 27, 2018 |
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"In 1908 an elderly woman was brutally murdered in her Glasgow apartment. The police found a convenient but innocent suspect in Oscar Slater--a Jewish cardsharp--who was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, already the world-famous creator of Sherlock Holmes, was outraged by this injustice and became obsessed with the case. Over the years he scoured trial transcripts, newspaper accounts, and police diaries, meticulously noting myriad holes and inconsistencies. Finally, in 1927, his work won Slater's freedom. Conan Doyle for the Defense immerses readers in the science of Edwardian crime detection, telling the story of how Conan Doyle managed to get this murder conviction overturned by employing the methods of his most famous creation. Along the way, Fox illuminates a watershed moment in the history of criminal justice when reflexive prejudice began gradually to be replaced by reason and the scientific method"--… (more)

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