In his first case, “A Study In Scarlet,” Sherlock Holmes invented a chemical test for detecting bloodstains, hence the title. The hero of my mysteries, Dr. Peyton McKean, is likewise an inventor of forensic tests. In fact, he is so accomplished at the task that he has invented dozens of commonly used blood tests, DNA tests, and you-name-it tests. Being such an expert, he’s most often summoned to murder scenes not so much to perform DNA tests, but to act as an expert examiner when DNA tests go wrong.
Peyton McKean is the top expert in his field, just as Sherlock Holmes was before him. And just as Holmes could be relied upon to bring the utmost brain-power to any problem, nowadays that lot usually falls to Peyton McKean. That’s why, in my first mystery in the Peyton McKean series, The Jihad Virus, I billed McKean as “The Greatest Mind Since Sherlock Holmes.”
The scene above, with apologies to Sydney Paget, portrays the moment when the eminent English sleuth asks the equally eminent American sleuth, “What do you make of this?” while he shows McKean a page of odd DNA test results he’s admittedly baffled by. If McKean’s intellectual trend runs true, he’ll quickly surmise a weakness in technique or an ambiguity in the sample that was tested, and come up with a new hypothesis for Holmes to factor into his prodigious process of deduction. It was McKean’s formidable skill in biotechnology that enabled him to succeed where others had failed to solve the mysteries I recorded in The Ghost Trees, A Dangerous Breed, and Blood Tide, the last of which was originally published in the anthology, Seattle Noir, and will soon appear as a stand-alone short story.
Ah, if only Peyton McKean had existed in Holmes’ times. What a team they would have made!