Higham tries to outsleuth Sherlock by picking away at the minutiae of Conan Doyle's life as a doctor, author, and spiritualist. His thesis is hardly original: Watson and Holmes represent ""a dual self-portrait."" An affable, patriotic Victorian, Conan Doyle at first blush seems much closer to Watson than to the solitary, eccentric Holmes. But, says Higham, the master detective, like his creator, was ""a capital boxer and fencer."" That wouldn't convince a jury so Higham fills in the details of the Adventures by speculating that Conan Doyle endowed Holmes with the habits and personality traits of his own family and friends, and borrowed his plots from contemporary news stories of bizarre or sensational crimes. One does get a momentary jolt from Holmes' ""necrophiliac yearnings"" but Higham doesn't choose to develop such things in what is more an appreciation (even of Conan Doyle's vast output of medieval romances and second- and third-rate science fiction) than a hard-nosed investigation. Neither Holmes' notorious misogyny nor Conan Doyle's increasingly credulous immersion in spiritualism is adequately dealt with. Flat, Watson, very flat.