Blood, Sweat, and Fear

Blood, Sweat, and Fear:
the story of Inspector Vance, Vancouver’s first forensic investigator


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John F.C.B. Vance was known internationally as Canada’s Sherlock Holmes. During his forty-two-year-career, starting as the City Analyst in 1907, he helped detectives solve hit-and-runs, safe-crackings, and some of the most sensational murder cases of the 20th century. Vance was constantly called to crime scenes and to testify in court because of his skills in serology, toxicology, and autopsy.

When Vance was first called to a crime scene in 1914, forensics was in its infancy. Vancouver was the first police department in Canada to have a scientist on staff and one of the few police departments in North America to use forensics in investigations. Vance’s knowledge of poisons helped solved a sensational death case, while his work in blood analysis allowed him to distinguish human from animal blood―and send a murderer to the gallows. His work in firearms examination was leading-edge, and Vance was able to bring his expertise in trace evidence and explosives to solve dozens of robberies, earning him front-page headlines.

Vance’s skills and analytic abilities were so effective that in 1934 there were seven attempts on his life, and for a time, he and his family were under constant police guard from criminals afraid to go up against him in court.

Blood, Sweat, and Fear delves into some of the most notorious cases in BC’s history, and the personal struggle of John F.C.B. Vance, a scientist who never lost his moral compass in the midst of corruption that reached to the top of the police force and to City Hall.


“Lazarus has done quite a detective job herself in tracking down and piecing together [Inspector John Vance’s] journals and papers,” writes George Fetherling in the Georgia Straight. “This is a fine Vancouver book indeed.”

“Had Vance been born a few decades later, his work would have qualified him for a spot on the Forensic Files television series. Instead he will be remembered through this book,” writes the Times Colonist.

“Blood, Sweat, and Fear is a captivating read which uses Vance’s life and work as the narrative thread weaving together accounts or more than a dozen cases he worked on during his 42-year career,” writes Spacing Vancouver. “Lazarus walks the reader through his careful examination of crime scenes. As she describes the collection of shards of broken glass, discarded cigarettes, or ripped fragment of cloth for analysis back at the lab, at times Blood, Sweat, and Fear reads like a page-turning whodunit, as the reader tries to guess which piece of evidence in a given case will prove to be the proverbial smoking gun. The book is a brisk, entertaining read about a fascinating character.”

“John F.C.B. Vance is an unsung good guy from a lifetime ago—a dogged forensic scientist determined to bring British Columbia’s murderers to justice, regardless of threats to himself and his family. Eve Lazarus has written an important history book that reads like a thriller.” Michael Kluckner, author/artist of Vanishing Vancouver and Toshiko:

“Eve Lazarus has written a detective story based on her research about a fascinating individual who was a pioneer in forensic science in Canada,” says Douglas M. Lucas, former director of the Centre of Forensic Sciences in Ontario. “The book includes interesting specifics about many of the true crime cases that John F.C.B. Vance helped to solve.”

“He was a pioneer in using science to solve crimes, faced death threats, invented a machine called ‘the robot detective’ and was known as Canada’s Sherlock Holmes,” writes Metro Vancouver. “It was a period of Vancouver’s history when city hall and the police department were rife with corruption and both the police chief and mayor had ties to organized crime”

“Vance’s four-decade career spent helping Vancouver police solve crimes, primarily through his pioneering use of forensic science, is the subject of Lazarus’ new book Blood, Sweat, and Fear,” writes the North Shore News. “The book paints a grizzly portrait of Vancouver from the beginning of the 20th century until after the Second World War and traces some of the city’s most notorious crimes.”