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Conan Doyle for the Defence

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Imprint: Profile Books
Pages: 344
Subject: History & Classics
Illustrations: Black and white photos and illustrations

Conan Doyle for the Defence

A Sensational Murder, the Quest for Justice and the World's Greatest Detective Writer

Margalit Fox

Arthur and George meets The Suspicions of Mr Whicher: how the creator of Sherlock Holmes overturned one of the great miscarriages of justice

9781781253564 (21 Jun 2018)

About the book

Just before Christmas 1908, Marion Gilchrist, a wealthy 82-year-old spinster, was found bludgeoned to death in her Glasgow home. A valuable diamond brooch was missing, and police soon fastened on a suspect - Oscar Slater, a Jewish immigrant who was rumoured to have a disreputable character. Slater had an alibi, but was nonetheless convicted and sentenced to death, later commuted to life imprisonment in the notorious Peterhead Prison.

Seventeen years later, a convict called William Gordon was released from Peterhead. Concealed in a false tooth was a message, addressed to the only man Slater thought could help him - Arthur Conan Doyle. Always a champion of the downtrodden, Conan Doyle turned his formidable talents to freeing Slater, deploying a forensic mind worthy of Sherlock Holmes.

Drawing from original sources including Oscar Slater's prison letters, this is Margalit Fox's vivid and compelling account of one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in Scottish history.

About the author

Margalit Fox is an award-winning senior writer at The New York Times. Her previous book, The Riddle of the Labyrinth (Profile, 2013), about the decipherment of the mysterious Bronze Age script Linear B, received the 2014 William Saroyan Prize for Nonfiction. Find her on Twitter @margalitfox


Like a good murder mystery, Conan Doyle for the Defence is a fast-paced read that twists and turns with the panache of a Holmes short story.

- Paula Byrne, The Guardian

This is a first-class book: pacy, insightful and lucid

- James McConnachie, The Sunday Times

One of the great intellectual adventure stories of the twentieth century.

- Wall Street Journal

Praise for The Riddle of the Labyrinth
'An engrossing detective story of driven personalities, hidden clues, perseverance and intuition

- The Sunday Times

Additional Information

Imprint: Profile Books
Pages: 344
Subject: History & Classics
Illustrations: Black and white photos and illustrations

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