The Sins of a City

The story of Canada’s Sherlock Holmes is also a dark and revealing history of Vancouver

The multi-hyphenated subgenre to which Eve Lazarus’s Blood, Sweat and Fear: The Story of Inspector Vance, Vancouver’s First Forensic Investigator belongs—historical–forensic–true-crime—aligns multiple aspects of our cultural fascination with crime. It bundles deep social history with the satisfactions of science’s absolute-truth crime-solving promise and, in some texts, pornographically gory splatter. Lazarus’s Vancouver-centralized history, presented as a chronicle of the career of Inspector John F.C.B. Vance, hits the first two aspects but never dwells on gore, providing necessary details of shootings and bludgeonings without wallowing gleefully in blood and guts as some true crime writers, and readers, do. Vance, one of North America’s first forensic scientists and a pillar of investigative science in the growing city of Vancouver in the early 20th century, is a natural subject for Lazarus, whose previous...