Blood, Sweat, and Fear:
the story of Inspector Vance, Vancouver’s first forensic investigator
Available at your favourite bookstore or online:
John F.C.B. Vance was known internationally as Canada’s Sherlock Holmes. During his forty-two-year-career, he helped detectives solve 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, firearms examination and autopsy.
The first time Vance was brought into a police investigation was in 1914 when he helped to solve a missing persons case. The wife of a CPR executive had disappeared, and it was Vance’s understanding of early blood work that found she had been hacked up and incinerated in their West End furnace by the Chinese “houseboy.”
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. Ten of the chapters follow the police investigation into individual crimes including the Japantown “Murder Factory,” the murder of two police officers at False Creek Flats, and the cause behind the mysterious death of a 19-year-old man.
Vance frequently brought his expertise in trace evidence and explosives to solve dozens of robberies, earning him front-page headlines. In fact his 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 the police investigation of some of the most notorious cases in BC’s history, while giving a sense of what life was like during a particularly turbulent time in Vancouver’s history. At the same time, it reveals Vance’s personal struggle, 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.
- Selected by the North Shore News as one of the best books of 2017
“A fascinating true crime story takes us back to Vancouver during the first half of the 20th century,” writes BC Living magazine in Great Summer Reads by BC Authors. “Eve Lazarus fills us in on Vance’s vastly ahead-of-his-time exploits in ballistics, explosives and blood analysis, which earned plenty of headlines and the wrath of an underworld that set out to permanently silence this recurring star witness.”
“In Blood, Sweat, and Fear Eve Lazarus rescues one of the most important actors in the history of forensic science in Canada from obscurity,” writes the Ormsby Review. “Lazarus writes in a highly readable style, demonstrating an ability to distill a tremendous amount of archival information into a narrative that does not overwhelm the reader with excessive detail. She adroitly selects some of Vancouver’s most infamous crimes to highlight Vance’s forensic abilities.”
“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.”
“Vance, one of North America’s first forensic scientists and a pillar of investigative science in Vancouver, is a natural subject for Lazarus, whose previous book, Cold Case Vancouver, provided a unique examination of the city’s history by focusing on crimes that reflected contemporary social inequities and tensions,” writes the Literary Review of Canada. “Lazarus continually takes the reader outside of the lab to examine the racism, homophobia, and police and political corruption that are at the roots of the crimes Vance investigated, and that continue to inform urban crime.”
“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.”
“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.”