Book Review: The Real Sherlock Holmes: The Hidden Story of Jerome Caminada by Angela Buckley

jerome caminada

In January 1899, the Superintendent of the Manchester Police Force announced his retirement, his police career having spanned an impressive 31 years and The Evening Telegraph describing him as ‘one of the most noted detectives of the country.’ His work in cleaning up the crime-ridden streets of Manchester had also been recognised by the Postmaster General and the Duke of Norfolk.

The superintendent in question was Jerome Caminada, a now legendary ‘Victorian Supersleuth’ who, during his career, became notorious for the tricks he used to catch criminals. Both in his lifetime and after, Caminada was often compared to Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes.

In The Real Sherlock Holmes: The Hidden Story of Jerome Caminada, Angela Buckley takes us into the dark and grim streets of Victorian Manchester where she follows Caminada as he climbs the ranks of the city’s police force, joining as a 23-year-old constable in 1868.

The book tells of Caminada’s humble beginnings as the son of an Italian immigrant, in a city where the life expectancy of the working class was a shocking 18. His family life blighted by tragedies such as the premature deaths of various siblings, the alcoholism of his brother and the impact of syphilis on his mother, Caminada used his time in the police force to not only improve the lives of his fellow Manchester residents but also his own.

In such a time of poverty, many individuals turned to crime and, after he joined the police, it was Caminada’s job to ensure the law was upheld and the streets of Manchester kept safe. Cases that Caminada tackled, and solved, during his career included The Manchester Cab Mystery, the case of the infamous Birmingham Forger and many incidents involving so-called Quack Doctors. A master of disguise, the detective also foiled many criminal plots in other areas of the country, including apprehending a gang of pickpockets at the Grand National in a guise ‘so convincing it even deceived his own chief constable.’ His talent for going undercover obviously standing him in good stead, it is also revealed that for many years, Caminada worked for Special Branch, carrying out top secret missions and taking his instructions directly from the Home Office.

Buckley’s descriptions of the Manchester streets – including Deansgate, St Ann’s Square and the then ‘Little Ireland’ (now Oxford Road Station) – are vivid and detailed. Indeed, anyone familiar with the city can walk Caminada’s beat alongside him, as he polices the many illegal drinking dens, gin joints and houses of ill repute that then occupied the city. An experienced historian whose work has featured in The Times and The Telegraph, Angela Buckley brings 19th century Manchester to life in this book and The Hidden Story of Jerome Caminada is a must read for all true-crime fans.

The book is available from Pen and Sword and Amazon.

This post was originally published on Humanity Hallows.