Wednesday 22 January 2020

Book Review: The Sherlock Holmes Handbook for the Digital Age by Alan Pearce

Last Updated: 12 October 2021

The Sherlock Holmes Handbook for the Digital Age by Alan Pearce book cover

AD* | Sherlock Holmes is the greatest detective of all time. He is driven to right the wrongs of the world. It is only natural that he should turn his attention to the Internet.

Luckily, Holmes has all the right answers. This is a cyber-security and digital counter-surveillance handbook like no other.

Our two heroes embark on a perilous journey to the Dark Side learning along the way to avoid the traps laid by their adversaries – the State, the Corporate Giants and the Criminals and Insane.

From self-destructing messages to anonymous browsing, we visit alternative Internets and discover how to employ the Dark Arts for the power of good.

This is a Call to Arms. The time has come to reclaim the Internet from the commercial interests, the scammers and the surveillance state. And – as Sherlock Holmes clearly demonstrates – it is really simplicity itself.

A short and entertaining read, The Sherlock Holmes Handbook for the Digital Age is a curious little book unlike any other.

Essentially, the book is an online safety manual, providing useful guidance and advice to help you stay safe in the digital world. However, its quirk is that it is told from the perspective of Doctor John Watson - companion to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's much-loved fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes.

This odd mish-mash of worlds really shouldn't work, yet somehow, it does actually work quite well. Holmes' naturally inquisitive nature and eccentricity really lend themselves to the book, and as he teaches Watson more and more, we are also given the opportunity to learn alongside him.

That being said, the thing that I found most jarring about the book was the fact that some elements of the story were worlds apart from the digital environment and technical jargon present throughout. For instance, Holmes and Watson themselves seemed to be almost entirely plucked straight out of the Conan Doyle stories. From dining at upmarket gentleman's clubs to Mrs Hudson still being around to provide them with tea and biscuits, these traditional parts of the story were very much at odds with Watson owning an iPhone and Holmes being a cybersecurity expert. It's almost as though the author was inspired by BBC's Sherlock, the modern-day take on the detective, yet he couldn't quite bring himself to leave some of the characteristics of the classic duo out of the book.

The content of the book itself contains some useful tips and advice to help people keep themselves safe online and safeguard their digital devices from prying eyes and malicious attacks. I do feel some parts of it are a little too paranoid for the everyday reader, yet on the whole, it is good advice that is certainly worth sharing.

All in all, this is an entertaining yet informative guide to help a modern-day audience navigate the digital world with the help of a beloved fictional detective.

Rating: 3 stars

The Sherlock Holmes Handbook for the Digital Age is available to buy now.

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* I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

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