Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Audiobook Review: The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession by David Gann

From Goodreads:
Each of the dozen stories in this collection reveals a hidden and often dangerous world and, like Into Thin Air and The Orchid Thief, pivots around the gravitational pull of obsession and the captivating personalities of those caught in its grip. There is the world's foremost expert on Sherlock Holmes who is found dead in mysterious circumstances; an arson sleuth trying to prove that a man about to be executed is innocent; and sandhogs racing to complete the brutally dangerous job of building New York City's water tunnels before the old system collapses. Throughout, Grann's hypnotic accounts display the power--and often the willful perversity--of the human spirit. 
Another book written by a successful journalist that combines my favorite aspects of interesting stories and quality reporting.  Each of these essays concerns a certain type of obsession (although some are more successful at this than others - see below) and Gann has clearly and thoroughly researched each piece.  He presents each story in an unbiased manner, and includes lots of quotes from interviews conducted with those closest to each story.  A great combination of quality reporting and a style that keeps the reader interested.

Entertainment Value
For the most part, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to these essays.  There were a few, however, that I felt were really trying to fit with them theme of obsessions and not quite making it.  There were times when I felt like the author maybe didn't have quite enough material for an entire book and just grabbed whatever he had that loosely fit (most of the essays were published previously in various journals and magazines).  I have no problem with the essays being pulled from the author's previous writing, but some just didn't seem to fit at all.  My favorites were the ones that fit into the murder or madness categories.  Only a few didn't concern crime and those were the ones I felt the most jarred by.  They were interesting essays (a search for a giant squid or constructing tunnels under New York City), but I didn't feel like they connected well with the rest of the book.

As much as I enjoyed the essays, the narration left a fair amount to be desired.  I thought the reader was fairly monotone and, in the less interesting essays, verged on dull.  I'd probably recommend trying it in print instead of on audio.  That would also give you an easier way to skip past the essays that you may not enjoy as much.

I learned about this on Book Riot's list of books to read after listening to Serial and I think it fits into that category pretty well, particularly the first few chapters.  Again, I'd probably recommend it in print rather than on audio because I was fairly disappointed with the narration.  That said, if you're a fan of mysteries or true crime or intrigue this is a great book to check out.


  1. I really liked this book. I read it a few years ago, and someone who doesn't read much non-fiction, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. It's funny that I just finished talking to my step-son about how we haven't read the same book in a while, and I recommended this one, and not 5 minutes later, your review popped up in my Feed :-)

    Tanya Patrice