Blood, Sweat, and Fear

The Story of Inspector Vance, Vancouver’s First Forensic Investigator

Reviewed by Tanja Hütter

November 14, 2018

Author Eve Lazarus follows up her previous book, Cold Case Vancouver, with a book that is just as fascinating. One of Vancouver’s top early twentieth-century crime crusaders, Inspector John F.C.B. Vance (J.F.C.B. to his family) was an international legend and earned the nickname “Sherlock Holmes.”

Vance invented many of the tools and equipment he needed at a time when forensics was in its infancy, and his approach to forensic investigation is reflected in techniques used today. Lazarus is quick to point out that her book isn’t a biography of the man: “It’s the story of Vance’s extraordinary work in forensic science … a history of the early work in forensics.”

Nonetheless, aspects of Vance’s character are brought to the fore. According to Lazarus, he was a “white hat” working in an ocean of “black hats.” His career began shortly before the Anti-Asiatic riots and continued through prohibition, the Depression, and two world wars. And if the bad guys weren’t enough, Vance was employed by two of the most corrupt police chiefs Vancouver ever had.

The evidence he obtained led to the successful prosecution of many criminals, but it came with a cost — Vance and his family became targets. In 1934 alone, there were seven assassination attempts; car bombs and mail bombs were the preferred methods of the day.

A rare treat, Blood, Sweat, and Fear also presents many images that were provided to the author by Vance’s grandchildren. Vance’s wife made a scrapbook of all his newspaper clippings, and the case files he kept after retirement were found in a box in their attic. For those who enjoy true crime or murder mysteries, this book is a must-read.

Buy this book from Chapters-Indigo

This article originally appeared in the December 2018-January 2019 issue of Canada’s History.

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