Book Review: Mrs. Sherlock Holmes: The True Story of New York City’s Greatest Female Detective

Book Details:

Title: Mrs. Sherlock Holmes: The True Story of New York City’s Greatest Female Detective and the 1917 Missing Girl Case That Captivated a Nation

Author: Brad Ricca

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Publication Date: January 3rd, 2017

Genre: Historical Non-fiction, Crime, True Story


My Thoughts:


I really wanted to like this book, but the structure and the writing style of it were – at best – disruptive – at it’s worst – confusing. But this is such an important story to tell! How much do we long for a true representation of history, one that does not whitewash, or leave out the heroes that are a part of a minority group – in this case, a female? Knowing the importance of the subject matter – which I think, the Author understood, despite his problems with the construction of the book – I powered through anyway.

Surely, I do have to point out, that it is not all bad, but it reads more like a police report that a well-constructed non-fiction. Another thing, I wanted to mention is, that the time jumping – despite being factual, and interesting – kept me from enjoying the book as a whole, so that I did not read it in one session, like I usually would, but came back to it, simply because I wanted to hear more about this woman detective.

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The fact that the heroine of the story was a graduate from Law school was impressive – after all, consider that by the time she was admitted to the Bar it was 1904!

I am glad I read the book, I just wish, I could have been less distracted by the way it was offered to us, and hope that someone will take mercy on the story of Mrs. Mary Grace Quackenbos to construct a more enjoyable read. 

Book Summary:

Mrs. Sherlock Holmes tells the true story of Mrs. Grace Humiston, the detective and lawyer who turned her back on New York society life to become one of the nation’s greatest crime fighters during an era when women weren’t even allowed to vote. After graduating from N.Y.U. law school, Grace opened a legal clinic in the city for low-income immigrant clients, and quickly established a reputation as a fierce, but fair lawyer who was always on the side of the disenfranchised.

Grace’s motto “Justice for those of limited means” led her to strange cases all over the city, and eventually the world. From defending an innocent giant on death row to investigating an island in Arkansas with a terrible secret about slavery; from the warring halls of Congress to a crumbling medieval tower in Italy, Grace solved crimes in-between shopping at Bergdorf Goodman and being marked for death by the sinister Black Hand. She defended women clients who had killed their attackers and fought the framing of a Baltimore black man at the mercy of a corrupt police department. Known for dressing only in black, Grace was appointed the first woman U.S. district attorney in history. And when a pretty 18-year-old girl named Ruth Cruger went missing on Valentine’s Day in New York, Grace took the case after  the police gave up. Grace and her partner, the hard-boiled Hungarian detective Julius J. Kron, navigated a dangerous mystery of secret boyfriends, two-faced cops, underground tunnels, rumors of white slavery, and a mysterious pale man — in a desperate race against time to save Ruth. When she solved the crime, she was made the first female consulting detective to the NYPD.But despite her many successes in social and criminal justice, Grace began to see chilling connections in the cases she had solved, leading to a final showdown with her most fearsome adversary of all and one of the most powerful men of the twentieth century.

This is the first-ever literary biography of the singular woman the press nicknamed after fiction’s greatest detective. In the narrative tradition of In Cold Blood and The Devil in the White City, her poignant story unmasks unmistakable connections between missing girls, the role of the media, and the real truth of crime stories. The great mystery of Mrs. Sherlock Holmes — and its haunting twist ending — is how one woman dedicated to finding the missing herself become so lost to history?



  1. From the book summary, it sounds like an amazing book with plenty of content to keep a reader interested. But I’m not sure if I want to pick this book up just yet, based from what you said about it being disruptive.

    What would you say the biggest pro and cons are of the book aside from structure? I would love to know to help me decide if I should get into the novel.

    1. Author

      Aside from structure, the content is solid, so they are not many cons I can think off. I am glad that the Author decided to tackle a subject that has not been before – to my knowledge at least – and packaged it with a solid cover, and a catching title, that is sure to get attention. 

      There are a lot of details that are relevant, and not a lot of fluff, so that is refreshing. I personally do not like non-fiction books that contain so much fluffy (personal anecdotes, or other irrelevant information) parts, because I don’t read these books for entertainment, or comfort, but for knowledge. But that is just me. So if that is what you would be interested in, then it will suit you.

      But, to make sure you are clear on this: this is not a fictional story, not a novel, it is purely a non-fiction historical account of a very interesting woman.



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