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This book addresses the question of how life may have arisen on earth, in the spirit of an intriguing detective story. It relies on the methods of Sherlock Holmes, in particular his principle that one should use the most paradoxical features of a case to crack it. This approach to the essential biological problems is t merely light-hearted, but a fascinating scrutiny of some very fundamental questions. 'I kw of other book that succeeds as well as this one in maintaining the central question in focus throughout. It is a summary of the best evolutionary thinking as applied to the origins of life in which the important issues are addressed pertinently, ecomically and with a happy recourse to creative analogies.' Nature '...a splendid story - and a much more convincing one than the molecular biologists can offer as an alternative. Cairns-Smith has argued his case before in the technical scientific literature, here he sets it out in a way from which anyone - even those whose chemistry and biology stopped at sixteen - can learn.' New Statesman