When a man I’ve never met before enters the Herald offices tugging a suspiciously large suitcase, then tells me he knows that he could get away with murder, it does give me pause for thought. And when he informs me he can also guess my bank details – plus other private information about me – I get more than a little hot under the collar. Next he hands me a sealed envelope with my name on it and tells me not to open it until he tells me to.

Colin Cloud is a very disconcerting fellow to meet in the flesh. It doesn’t help that he looks like a youthful Bond villain – one with a penchant for garish tattoos. Luckily it turns out that Cloud isn’t a murderer (as far as I know), though he's making a killing as an entertainer, a sort of Paul McKenna slash David Blaine type of chap. Or as he likes to market himself: the new Sherlock Holmes.

Cloud claims that, just like Conan Doyle’s sleuth, he can figure out everything there is to know about a person, just by looking at them. It’s a nifty knack that has taken him to the cusp of stardom. He’s performing at this year’s Edinburgh Festival and there’s also an American TV show in the pipeline.

At the age of 28, Cloud has come a long way from his youth in Harthill, North Lanarkshire, where he first stumbled across the boffin of Baker Street. “I’ve been fascinated by Sherlock Holmes since I was a little kid,” he says. “I spotted a book in the school library with this guy with a strange hat and pipe. For ages I didn’t pick up the book, but I kept thinking: 'What a weird cover.'”

The schoolboy finally delved into the curious tome, opening it at a page where Holmes was making one of his famous deductions. “I thought that was amazing and really wished I could do it.”

Then, when Cloud was 10, he discovered that Sherlock Holmes was, in fact, a fictional character.

Big disappointment. Still, there was a plus side. It meant there was a Sherlock-shaped hole in the non-fictional universe – a hole that Cloud could fill with his own talent. But first he had to obtain that talent.

He’s keen to emphasise that his people-reading skills are not innate – they were hard won and honed, with years of study. First at Glasgow University, where he read for a degree in psychology, then further education at the city’s Stand comedy slub. “I realised stand-up comedians were the real Sherlock Holmes, because comedians are so aware of people. How they act, how they behave. And the best comedians pick up on that and build it into their acts.

“I thought: 'There’s only one way to learn how to do that, and that’s to get up on stage and do it.'”

While developing his act he also worked as a lifestyle coach. Then there was a profile-raising performance on ITV's hugely successful entertainment show Britain’s Got Talent. The clip is still on YouTube, though it’s not for the squeamish. Cloud – still known by his real surname of McCloud at the time – flashes his bare backside at the judging panel, including Simon Cowell. It’s all part of the act, and Cowell gazes on the pale, quivering buttocks with suitable approval. Since that TV appearance Cloud's career hasn’t hit a single bum note, though he’s still eagerly developing new ideas. His new show, for instance, has an added twist. He not only imitates Sherlock – he also turns into Moriarty, too.

Is he really capable of being a criminal mastermind, however?

“Perhaps,” he grins. “Though I’m more of a sociopath than a psychopath.”

He adds, “People always tell me that if they had my skills they’d use them to cheat at poker, get women’s numbers, know everybody’s secrets. Evil, basically, to benefit themselves.

“And that got me thinking. If I was to use my skills for evil, what’s the most evil thing I could get away with? And I realised I could get away with murder.”

I arch an arch eyebrow. Really?

“I know so,” says Cloud.

Now I’m getting very worried about what’s in that suitcase.

“You should be,” he says.

So what's in the suitcase?

“Nothing,” he shrugs. “You’re going in, soon.”

He’s joking. Probably. Though there is something of the charming cad about his manner. A hipster Dick Dastardly.

He definitely should have a waxed moustache to twirl, plus a naive young girl at his disposal, to be tied to railroad tracks while Cloud cackles demoniacally.

Which brings me rather neatly to my next question. Is he in a relationship? It must be rather difficult to find love when you can see through people as though they were freshly washed panes of glass. He looks uneasy for the first time since we’ve met.

“I’m recently divorced,” he says, “but I don’t really want to talk about that, other than to say it was for all the right reasons.” By this he means he is married to his work, and that’s where his commitment will lie for the foreseeable future.

“Friends and family would say that I’m very much focused on this stuff. It’s all I think about. If you saw my office at home, there are notes all over the place of things I’m learning. All the new skills I’m developing. Plus, I’m always travelling. I’m in Edinburgh then London then New York. I’m a busy boy. Put it that way.”

Does he concede that his abilities will make it hard for him to get close to any prospective partner? “I definitely have an unfair advantage in a relationship. But it’s the sort of thing I can switch off as well.”

I feel I now have Cloud under the microscope, rather than the other way round. Clearly my crafty skills are much more powerful than Cloud's sham Sherlock shenanigans. Getting cocky, I laser in on his tattoos. His rolled-up sleeve reveals a picture of a blindfolded woman.

I guess that represents justice, or the idea of the unknown, I say. The fact you know more than your audience.

“Wrong,” he says. “It’s actually a nod to an early psychic who was blindfolded when she read for her audience. She was a complete fake, of course, but I’m fascinated by her technique.”

Suitably chastened, I enquire if he can do any better. It’s time for him to try to read me. The photographer is on hand to witness the experiment, and Cloud quickly changes into more suitably shamanistic attire. (A change of clothes – that’s what was in the suitcase!) He then invites me to open the sealed envelope.

Inside, there’s a note in which Cloud guessed correctly what I’d be wearing when we met. (Remember, he handed me the envelope the instant I introduced myself. So the note inside must have been written before he could possibly know what I looked like.) The note goes on to correctly predict that I’d ask about his tattoos, and that I would wrongly guess that the blindfolded woman represented justice. The note also accurately describes a future Herald Twitter feed. Spooky.

The Herald:

Once I’m finished studying the scrap of paper for any sign of subterfuge, Cloud performs a trick where he correctly guesses the PIN number for my bank account. And, no, it does not involve him demanding the relevant information at gunpoint.

“Impressed?” he asks, with a victorious smirk.

“No s***, Sherlock,” I concede, in a slightly less than gracious manner. Still, I should be grateful for small mercies. At least I didn’t end up in the mysterious Colin Cloud’s suitcase …

Colin Cloud is at the Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh, August 5-30. Visit www.edfringe.com and www.colincloud.com