The best books since the beginning of crime

The Books I Picked & Why

Memoirs of a Bow Street Runner

By Henry Goddard

Memoirs of a Bow Street Runner

Why this book?

Before the Metropolitan Police (popularly known as Scotland Yard) existed, the Bow Street Runners were in charge of criminal investigation in Britain. Henry Goddard, the brilliant and incisive Runner, employed Sherlockian techniques years before the first Sherlock Holmes story was published. In later years, as a private detective, he continued to investigate and solve famous and complex crimes-He traveled widely, pursuing suspects through the Middle East, Europe, and Australia all of which he vividly describes.

In his old age, he dictated these memoirs, which give us a detailed account of his methods, and how he found "The Man With the Hidden Limp" and how he proved "The Butler Really Did It." It also makes clear how many errors of fact crept into later accounts of these famous crimes. Anyone with an interest in early criminal history will find this fascinating.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Criminal Investigation: A Practical Handbook for Magistrates, Police Officers and Lawyers

By Hans Gross

Criminal Investigation: A Practical Handbook for Magistrates, Police Officers and Lawyers

Why this book?

Hans Gross, Professor of Criminology, first published this book in his native German in 1893. It was translated into English, among other languages, by 1908, and remains one of the great seminal works on criminal investigation. It is also full of fascinating and sometimes gory detail.

Gross details the importance of recording every minute trace at a crime scene, and the need for a thorough search for evidence, sometimes in peculiar places. He illustrates his technique by recounting a number of bizarre crimes, the stolen coins hidden in a pot of boiling soup, the meaning of missing blood at a murder, the odd sexual habits of "The Chicken Man”. He writes of suspects who feign deafness and the methods needed to detect them. He is inventive and expressive. 

Written in the same period as the Sherlock Holmes stories, projecting a similar approach to the criminals, it gives us insight into Holmes's development. Surely Mr. Holmes read this at some point.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Legal Medicine Volume 2

By Charles Meymott Tidy

Legal Medicine Volume 2

Why this book?

Dr. Tidy’s work of two slim volumes packs a wallop of information about pathology in the Victorian Age. Not only does he explain how to examine dead bodies and their surroundings, he lists, at the bottom of the chapters, pertinent cases from legal history and from his own practice. It’s here that we discover convincing evidence that there was an adequate test for hemoglobin well before Holmes claimed to have invented it. Tidy even gives in detail the murder trial at which it was used to get a conviction.

This is a great source for anyone looking for crime novel plots-it’s knowledgeable, detailed, scientific, and compelling.

Note: When Dr. Tidy’s book was first published in 1882 it was offered as a boxed set of two slim volumes. As they are cross-referenced it is most useful to have volumes 1 and 2. Fortunately, Amazon offers both.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Short Stories: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and the Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes

By Arthur Conan Doyle

The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Short Stories: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and the Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes

Why this book?

Along with a complete reprinting of all the Sherlock Holmes stories, this is an incredibly well-researched account of the background from which they sprang. Leslie Klinger clarifies and defines many of the archaic terms and complex historical quirks which sometimes makes the initial reading of Sherlock Holmes difficult for newcomers to the Canon. He delineates the tales connection to the true crimes upon which Conan Doyle drew. It’s a bit like seeing an old, somewhat blurry photograph suddenly sharpened to give maximum impact. It’s simply necessary for anyone with a serious interest in Mr. Holmes.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

The Blooding: The Dramatic True Story of the First Murder Case Solved by Genetic "Fingerprinting"

By Joseph Wambaugh

The Blooding: The Dramatic True Story of the First Murder Case Solved by Genetic "Fingerprinting"

Why this book?

The Blooding recounts a gripping true tale of murders in the picturesque English countryside-but aside from its haunting atmosphere, it is a detailed account of the beginning of DNA as a crime-solving technique. We have come a long way since the mid-1980s, and we can get much more information from newer DNA methods, but the detailed explanation of exactly how this worked as a revolutionary method is invaluable. Reading this book puts the reader at the very beginning of a revolution.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Closely Related Book Lists

Distantly Related Book Lists

Random Book Lists