Sherlock Holmes is known as one of the great detectives, even though he was a fictional character. Perhaps the better detective was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who wrote the famous books, although we do not know whether he actually solved any crimes.
Holmes offers his advice on how to solve crimes. He says that it takes dedication and practice of the following skills:
You have to be able to see things that others do not
This is critical for the detective. Everything potentially has a story, how things are placed at a crime scene could explain what happened. This is one of Holmes’ key skills – an ink stain on a gloved finger indicates that someone is left handed, for example.
You have to know where to look for clues
The first clues that you see in an investigation may tell you what to rule out, so you must not assume that everything is a positive clue. In one episode of Columbo a cuff link falls into an umbrella and a murder scene and he manages to find it, thus placing a suspect at the scene.
You should have a knack for wearing disguises
This is perhaps more important in the Holmes stories than it is in real life. However, observation can be an important aspect of a case. You might be surprised to find out how much access you can gain with workmen’s overalls and a clipboard, particularly if you can get some plausible ID. Now, do not get into trouble!
You must study evidence closely
Study the evidence and keep an open mind for as long as possible. Once an opinion is formed the inexperienced investigator might be prone to adapting everything to fit that theory. The longer you can keep an open mind the better. In our murder mysteries we advise people to seek method, motive and then murderer. The evidence is like a jigsaw puzzle, and every piece must be examined.
Knowledge of people, and their curious ways
This is class Holmes terminology. At the core of this is the advice that you should never assume. People have all sorts of motivations and they are not always predictable. However, there are personality types and understanding these can help you to understand motivations. These are worth understanding.
Times have changed, and solving crime using forensics has made great advances since Sherlock Holmes’ times. Yet we should not depend too much on technology, and the understanding of people and observation are still just as important as they were then.