Brilliant Deduction: The Story of Real-Live Detectives by Matt Kuhns

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Everyone can name a famous detective or two. Sam Spade, Hercule Poirot, Columbo; and, of course, the Baker Street gentleman whose renown surpasses all the others. But all of the familiar great detectives are fictional. What about the real world? Haven’t any real-life detectives ever demonstrated a little greatness of their own?
Indeed they have. Brilliant Deduction: The Story of Real-Life Great Detectives reintroduces these figures whose lives were every bit as remarkable as the literary figures who have supplanted them. The forty-niner who accidentally detoured into a half-century career as a crime solver; the famous London P.I. who dazzled Europe with his genius for mysteries, but may have been the biggest mystery of all, himself. These men and their peers once filled headlines with their exploits, winning tributes and sometimes stirring controversy, but fascinating the public either way.
Yet today, nearly all of history’s real great detectives are forgotten, even as crime drama and mystery stories remain as popular as ever. The contrast is something of a mystery, itself. Brilliant Deduction summons witnesses, reviews the evidence and presents its theory of the case, all in entertaining style and witty, lively language. The first broad study of famous real-life detectives in decades, Brilliant Deduction should instantly find favor with fans of mysteries, true crime, and any thoughtfully written nonfiction.
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They say truth is always stranger than fiction, and it is also usually more interesting, too. The fictional characters Sherlock Holmes and Poirot are both engaging detectives with memorable stories. But they are all fictional and nearly pale in comparison with the lives of historical detectives. Brilliant Deduction by Matt Kuhns explores the real life detectives in history who have made such an impact on the field of investigation.

Kuhns explores the lives of these historical detectives: Eugène François Vidocq; Jonathan Whicher; The Pinkertons men; Ignatius "Paddington" Pollaky; Isaiah Lees; William Burns; and Ellis Parker. The different biographies span nearly two centuries, and it is fascinating to learn about how they went about their work, and why solving crimes became so vital to them.

Their lives are at times tragic and full of obstacles but each had an instinctive and deep desire to solve mysteries. They are as interesting as any fictional character you will read about. Knowing these individuals made the history books and inspired others makes them even more engaging.

A great read, for both mystery and history buffs as Brilliant Deduction combines the two. It is highly recommended for those that think those fictional characters are the most dynamic detectives around. And I'll think about the generic word 'Pinkerton' a little differently when I watch another Western. I now know who the real men were.

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Disclosure: This book was provided by the author and any opinions are my own.