Wed
Mar 29 2017 1:00pm

The Detective of My Dreams

Read this exclusive guest post from Kaite Welsh about her fascination with Sherlock Holmes, and then make sure to sign in and comment below for a chance to win her thrilling debut novel, The Wages of Sin!

I met the man of my dreams in the school library during a rainy September. I was between books, and I had been making eyes at The Complete Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, a giant hardback that took up most of the shelf, for a couple of days. I don’t think I put it down for the two weeks it took me to finish it, sneaking chapters like cookies from a jar—a page here in the hubbub before a test, a few more there while I was loading the dishwasher. To this day, I can't stop at just one case. 

There’s a phase I think every Holmes fan goes through, whether they encounter the Great Detective through the pages of Arthur Conan Doyle’s original books or via the perfectly sculpted cheekbones and dulcet tones of Benedict Cumberbatch. Suddenly, every tiny detail takes on a greater meaning—the mud tracked in from the hockey pitch and the crumbs on a school tie all start to tell a story. It gave me a love of forensic detail that may never solve a crime in real life but has at least given me an impressive batting average when it comes to guessing fictional murderers. 

As I grew up and read further, I encountered Sherlock’s descendants: Kay Scarpetta, John Rebus, and VI Warshawski. And yet, I never forgot that first love. While I can, and frequently do, power through one or two crime novels a day when I have time, I linger over Holmes. I re-read a half-forgotten story starting at the end, trying to reverse engineer his deductions. I devour the spin-offs and adaptations—from Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell series to Brittany Cavallero’s compulsive modern re-working, A Study in Charlotte.

It was probably inevitable that I ended up in Edinburgh, living around the corner from Conan Doyle’s childhood home. But it never registered until I took a shortcut through the quad from the old Medical School and spied two blue plaques that planted a seed in my mind. 

The first commemorated Sophia Jex-Blake, one of the first women to study medicine at the University of Edinburgh in an attempt to smash the academic glass ceiling. Despite violent protests from the male students—and some of the faculty—she and the other six women excelled in their studies, only to be barred from graduating. Jex-Blake finally got her MD in Switzerland and then moved back to Edinburgh, where a young Arthur Conan Doyle was just embarking on his own medical studies. Thanks to his gender, Doyle had no problem graduating, and his relationship with lecturer and occasional detective—and honoree of the second plaque—Dr. Joseph Bell was to prove fruitful in an entirely different arena. 

If you’re going to be a crime novelist, you could do worse than follow in the literal footsteps of the man who inspired Sherlock Holmes. Edinburgh is infused with mystery and death, from the twisting back streets they call “wynds” to the leafy green public park called the Meadows, which is built on old plague pits. There’s even an entire underground city beneath the cobbles—caverns, tunnels, and vaults which housed some of the city’s most destitute and desperate. 

The Wages of Sin owes a lot to Sherlock Holmes and Joseph Bell. But my book takes place in a very different kind of Victorian city than the one Conan Doyle wrote about. Mine is populated by the prostitutes, abortionists, and fallen women that he could only relegate to subtext. In fact, Bell himself plays a role of sorts; without giving anything away, I can say that his influence as both doctor and sleuth is felt by more than one character. 

Read an excerpt from The Wages of Sin!

There’s a statue of Sherlock Holmes at the top of Leith Walk. As a student, I barely noticed it as I drunkenly staggered past on my way home from clubs. But now, when I soberly pass him once or twice a day on my average daily routine, he feels like a talisman, the city’s very own guardian angel, his expression unreadable beneath his bronze deerstalker. And as I pass, I pause and remember that there is no problem that three pipes can’t solve; there is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact; and that when you have eliminated the impossible, then whatever remains—however improbable—must be the truth.
 

Comment below for a chance to win a copy of The Wages of Sin by Kaite Welsh!

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The Wages of Sin Comment Sweepstakes: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN.  A purchase does not improve your chances of winning.  Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years or older as of the date of entry.  To enter, complete the “Post a Comment” entry at https://www.criminalelement.com/stories/2017/03/the-detective-of-my-dreams-comment-sweepstakes beginning at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) March 29, 2017. Sweepstakes ends 1:59 p.m. ET April 7, 2017. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Macmillan, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.

Check out Dirk Robertson's review of The Wages of Sin!

 

To learn more or order a copy, visit:

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Kaite Welsh is an Edinburgh-based journalist and critic and the Literature Officer at Creative Scotland. She writes a weekly column for the Daily Telegraph and makes frequent appearances on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour. She was included on the Independent on Sunday’s 2015 Rainbow List, which recognizes the 100 most influential LGBTI people in the UK. In 2014, Kaite was shortlisted for both the Scottish New Writers Award and the Moniack Mhor Bridge Award.

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81 comments
Pat Dupuy
1. Pat D
I saw that statue in Edinburgh and took a picture of it!
John Smith
2. jsmith2jsmith
Can an otter really have "perfectly sculpted cheekbones"?
Jane Schwarz
5. Janeschwarz
Always loved the Sherlock Holmes stories. Thanks for the opportunity to win a copy of "The Wages of Sin".
Tatiana deCarillion
6. decarillion
My first exposure to Holmes was via Basil Rathbone and company on early Saturday morning movies when I was little. A couple of years later I read the stories. I've been to Holmes' weekends in Cape May, fell in love with Brett's incarnation on TV, played the original Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective game that came in a binder and a box, various computer games, and finally, Cumberbatch's magnificent interpretation. He is absolutely one of my top three lit characters. Thanks for the contest!
Pearl Berger
10. Sunshine
Extremely interesting feature and wonderful giveaway.
Shaunterria Owens
11. shaunterria
Cumberbatch is *the* definitive Sherlock for me - I can't get enough
Theresa Clarke
12. Luminous Angel
Lovely article about your discovery of Holmes - thanks for sharing! :)
Caren Luckie
13. czluckie
Love Sherlock Holmes and the Laurie R. King books, gives a whole new perspective on the man.
Jean Feingold
16. dusksunset
Don't think I would admit my college years indiscretions in public!
Jean Feingold
17. dusksunset
Don't think I would admit my college years indiscretions in public!
Michele Van Epps
19. Ireed
I love a good mystery! My introduction to the great Mr. Holmes was by an amazing fifth grade teacher who read him to us.
ellie lewis
20. italia
The Wages of Sin interests me very much.
21. Linda A
Prostitutes, abortionists and fallen women! What great characters you must have written.
22. pegkeohane
anything that refers to Sherlock Holmes is a winner for me.
susan beamon
24. susanbeamon
I read Sherlock when I was young. My biggest problem with the stories was one I have with most writing of the time period - too many words. I would like to read this new to me author's addition to the Sherlock genre,
Michael Carter
28. rubydog
Great!
I'd love to win.
Please enter me in this sweepstakes.
Thanks ---
Andrew Beck
30. velocity
Sounds like we have a decent female rival for Sherlock Holmes! I hope this book is the start of a new series!
Elizabeth Matthiesen
31. elizamatt
This is exciting, I look forward to reading some of her work. :-)
Gwen Ellington
33. mamadonie02
Not only "Sherlock" but also a beautiful book cover, too!
Portia Asher
34. pixie
I also love Sherlock Holmes..I would so enjoy this book.
Vernon Luckert
35. vl4095
Sherlock stories are always great reads.
Anita Nowak
36. sirdustin
Sounds like a very good book that I would enjoy reading
Anita Nowak
36. sirdustin
Sounds like a very good book that I would enjoy reading
teresa sopher
37. tas58
My TBR pile can never be too tall!!
Barbara Bibel
38. bbibel
Fascinating. I definitely want to read it.
Lori Provenzano
39. Mountainesque
Looks like both the mystery and the history of 'The Wages of Sin' would make for a very absorbing read!
40. Skipper50
On my list.
vickie dailey
43. kidcurry
very interesting - I love a good mystery and I myself spent many days at the library perusing the stacks and finding many favorites - among them Sherlock Holmes - I do not care for the modernized Holmes and prefer the Robert Downy Jr. portrayal of today's movies.
Susan Kennedy
45. sbkennedy
I admire Laurie R. King. Also like historical mysteries in general, especially if they take place in Edinburgh. Kaite Welsh's book sounds promising. I am sure I would enjoy reading it!
Irene Menge
50. Goldenmane
Holmes taught me how to think logically a long time ago. Thank you for this opportunity to win The Wages of Sin. Sounds like an excellent read!
Connie Williamson
51. angelbun
I love the Sherlock Holmes stories, and Cumberbatch's Sherlock, and Laurie King's books too. I appreciate the chance to win The Wages of Sin.
52. Polly Barlow
I have not read much by Sherlock Holmes. I would rather see his mysteries on the screen. If I should start to read his works, I wonder which one I should start first.
Sue Farrell
58. Suekey12
Why are book men always better than men in real live?
Sue Farrell
58. Suekey12
Why are book men always better than men in real live?
Gilbert Bardsley
60. gilbert
Sounds like a great companion to Moore's "The Sherlockian". Look forward to reading.
Jim Belcher
61. librarypops
Alas poor Sherlock. Used and abused so often, but when you are so facinating a character you have to expect these things. He is so much better in print (or on audio) than on the screen.
Carl
64. Carl Scott
Ah, the seedy side of the Victorian age. There was plenty of it, let's bring it out in the open. Thanks for the chance to win this book.
Catherine Myers
69. ktpotat
Sherlock Holmes is one of if not the best detective ever.
Alyson Widen
71. Sunnymay
I've always wondered about guardian angels and hope they come and flutter their wings to change the atmosphere and direction of anyone going off the edge of reason. The statue of Sherlock makes me feel as if he's there in person, pondering clues and solving mysteries that no one else can. As an author, he sprinkled clues throughout his mysteries and, more often than naught, had a surprise twist at the ending where you didn't see that one coming.
Sharon Haas
74. kazul
This sounds amazing! Thanks for the chance.
Carolyn Bybee
76. CSB
Sounds like a great book - especially if inspired by Sherlock Holmes and Joseph Bell!
77. Liz L
Look forward to reading
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