Famous Investigators - Sherlock Holmes

4 May 2021

Sherlock Holmes is not only the most famous private investigator in history, but also the most portrayed human literary figure in the history of film and television, as certified by Guiness Book in 2012. He appeared in 226 films, while Dracula in only 239!

It may seem surprising that the adventures and methods of a fictional detective in the Victorian England could have any relevance to the work of a Romanian corporate investigation company. However, we will find many similarities. Not a few times, the famous detective on Baker Street put his skills to work in a fraud investigation involving a company. Short stories such as The Stockbroker’s Clerk, The Red-Headed League and The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet place Sherlock Holmes in the middle of anti-fraud investigations involving private companies. All these adventures are solved by uncovering networks similar to the criminal elements that are the subject of contemporary corporate investigations.

The debut of the Sherlock Holmes character was made in 1887, when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle published A Study in Scarlet novel. By 1990, there were already more than 25,000 adaptations, stagings, film adaptations and publications describing the adventures and investigations of Sherlock Holmes and his assistant, Dr. Watson.

Totally different, the two friends, collaborators and even roommates, complete each other and make a perfect team. Dr. John H. Watson has the typical behavior of a well-mannered Victorian gentleman with his feet on the ground, lacking the eccentricity or observation and deduction skills of Sherlock Holmes. He is the discussion partner, the one who validates or contradicts Holmes’ observations and arguments, his confidant and his help. A doctor by profession, Watson is a military surgeon, war veteran and passionate about writing, being, by the way, the one who recounts the adventures of the two friends.

Unlike his assistant, Sherlock Holmes is a weird, eccentric and a not very sociable guy. If necessary, he stimulates his senses by starving or using powerful drugs such as morphine or cocaine, both legal in the 19th century England.

In the 23 years of investigations – of which 17 spent with Dr. Watson – Sherlock Holmes has been hired by the most diverse clients – from bankers, business owners and businessmen with successful businesses to mistresses, aristocrats, rich and famous people, Scotland Yard, a prime minister, the king of Bohemia, the monarch of Scandinavia and even the Vatican are among those who hired him for private investigations, while the king of France decorated him with the Legion of Honor for capturing an assassin. The private investigator represents the British government in several national security issues and the London police turns to him whenever they face mysterious crimes, which they cannot solve. He is invited to Windsor Castle to meet Queen Victoria, from whom he receives an emerald tie pin, in recognition of his services.

In his investigations, Sherlock Holmes is very careful to details, makes deductions and logical reasoning, proves to be a very good connoisseur of the human psychology, but he also heavily relies on solid, concrete evidence.

He disguises himself, collects, analyzes and interprets physical evidence, from fingerprints to various substances, compares letters to differentiate writings, graphologically interprets them and even does ballistic analysis, comparing bullets fired from a crime scene with a suspect’s weapon – technique which begins to be used by the police only 15 years after the publication of the story.

In addition, he is a specialist in cryptanalysis, confessing to Watson that he is familiar with all forms of secret writing and even that he himself wrote a paper in which he analyzes 160 different figures. He always has a magnifying glass with him and, in his house on Baker Street, he has a real forensics laboratory, equipped with test tubes, various substances and an optical microscope.

Sherlock Holmes seems to do things his way and at his own pace, without necessarily taking into account the opinions of others, not even those of his good friend, Watson.

Holmes’ method of doing or thinking about one thing at once, without what we now call multitasking, led psychologist Maria Konnikova to say that the private investigator was the predecessor of mindfulness and that he proved, through his actions, the beneficial effects that singletasking has on the brain.

The process followed today by fraud investigators targeting modern companies does not differ fundamentally from Holmes’ methods. The four-step approach – finding out as much detail about the case, developing an action plan, starting the actual investigation and collecting data, and resolving and presenting the findings to the client – was as familiar to Sherlock as it is to SPIA investigators.

But in 1839, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had grown tired of writing about Sherlock Holmes, so in the story called “The Final Problem”, the private investigator was killed. Specifically, he fell from a rock – from the height of the Reichenbach waterfalls, which became famous due to this fictitious event – during a hand-to-hand fight with his fiercest enemy, Professor Moriarty.

Copyrights for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s works expired in the United Kingdom and Canada in the late 1980s, were renewed in 1996, then expired again in the late 2000. The author’s works are now in the public domain of these countries.

In the United States, on the other hand, there has been a legal battle for the copyright. For many years, all stories published before 1923 were in the public domain. But because 10 of these were published later this year, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s followers claimed that the Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson characters as a whole were still under copyright, as were all the stories with the 2 of them. In the end, the court’s decision was not in their favor, and the 10 stories will enter the public domain between January 1, 2019 and January 1, 2023.

The legend of Sherlock Holmes continues till today, more than a century after the famous private detective was born from the pen of Arthur Conan Doyle. His investigative methods and the sharp insight with which he solves the cases have been an inspiration to many generations of private investigators. SPIA Romania makes its own contribution to the history book of private investigations, helping corporate clients to solve even the most complicated cases of business fraud, continuing in real life the almost mythological tradition built by heroic detectives such as Sherlock Holmes.