In his book, Mostly Murder, Sir Sydney Alfred Smith recalls from his childhood in New Zealand, his adventures in Cairo and Edinburgh, to his studies of ballistics during World War II.
The edition which I received as a gift was issued in 1961 for members of the Companion Book Club. Its title page brilliantly displays Sir Smith’s post-nominal letters (written in order of appearance):
- Awarded the Most Excellent of the British Order (CBE);
- Known as a Doctor of Laws (LLD);
- Studied his Doctorate in Medicine at the University of Edinburgh
- Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons (Edinburgh)
Emeritus Professor of Forensic Medicine, Edinburgh University. Formerly Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Rector of Edinburgh University. Formerly Principal Medico-legal Expert to the Ministry of Justice, Egypt, and Professor of Forensic Medicine in the School of Medicine, Cairo
I can not find a better way to introduce the man. Besides, that’s more than enough honours to get anyone excited (to read his book).
The book goes over the many forensic cases which he have seen through and also his travels throughout Cairo, Edinburgh and Oceania, with a touch of his warm and pleasant spirit that can still be felt even as you are merely reading.
I came across Sir Smith’s autobiographical book while searching for resources on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Dr. Joseph Bell; it was among the several search results that were of special interest to me. In one chapter he discusses a bit of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Joseph Bell’s influence on Sir Doyle’s famous character. Another inspiration for the sleuth came from Sir Henry Duncan Littlejohn, whose son, Henry Harvey Littlejohn, was a close friend and mentor of Sir Smith.
It was pleasurable to read his recollections, from the 1880’s to the World War II era. The stories gave great insight into the development of forensic science, or medical jurisprudence, as it were called in those times.
I truly wish not to give away any spoilers, but instead want to encourage Sherlockians/Holmesians, medico-legal enthusiasts, or anyone looking for a great early 20th century autobiography to read the book. I assure you that diving into Sir Smith’s memoirs will make enjoyable time.
I hope my small unorthodox book review has some persuasive effect on you! Again, I’d much prefer to keep you curious instead of summarize the entire book as one would usually do for a book report. Another post on Mostly Murder might be next, so stay tuned my friends.