The Final Problem and The Return of Sherlock Holmes

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Final Problem
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

I thought I knew the basic premise of this story when I started it, but it turns out I knew the whole thing. This incredibly slim volume is considered the final of only four novels in the Sherlock Holmes series. There are many additional short stories.

Written from Watson’s point-of-view we see an increasingly paranoid Sherlock taking extreme measures to escape his arch-nemesis Dr. Moriarty. The pair, one an unconventional, brilliant detective, the other a criminal mastermind are perfectly matched. Sherlock has finally found his intellectual equal; unfortunately they are pitted against one another. You can’t help but hear the admiration in Sherlock’s voice as he describes the villains’ evil empire.

Here’s a bit about Moriarty in Sherlock’s own words…

“He is the Napoleon of crime, Watson. He is the organizer of half that is evil and of nearly all that is undetected in this great city. He is a genius, a philosopher, an abstract thinker. He has a brain of the first order. He sits motionless, like a spider in the center of its web, but that web has a thousand radiations, and he knows well every quiver of each of them. He does little himself. He only plans.”

A worthy conclusion to Sherlock’s story, I only wish it had been longer! I would still recommend The Sign of Four as the best place to start if you’re new to Sherlock.

The Return of Sherlock Holmes (The Empty Room)
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Three years after Sherlock’s death at the hands of Moriarty, Dr. Watson is shocked to discover he’s actually alive and well! He was so shocked in fact he faints for the first and only time in his life.

The story that follows explains Sherlock’s absence over the past couples years and his current predicament. Some of Moriarty’s agents are trying to find and kill him and they’ll stop at nothing to do so. The clever Holmes devises a plan to not only catch his enemies, but also to solve an open case for the police at the same time.


Colonel Moran is Sherlock’s pursuer in this novella. He is an admired military man with a reputation as an skilled hunter. Sherlock compares Colonel Moran (to his face) to the very tigers he hunted for so many years. It must have been salt in the wound to someone so proud of his ability to hunt. Holmes had no qualms about insulting him and making sure he understood that he was now the captured prey. Clearly the brilliant Sherlock has returned.


BOTTOM LINE: An excellent story and a must read for anyone who finishes The Final Problem. 

I read both of these as part of the R.I.P. Challenge hosted here.


Alex (The Sleepless Reader) said...

Sorry, I'm curious about something that has little to do with the book: is it really written "the organizer" with a z? Wouldn't Conan Doyle have written it with an "s"? Do US publishers make those changes?

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Alex - That's a great question. I just checked my copy to be absolutely sure and it was spelled with a Z. Maybe the US publishers changed it. I didn't even think about that.

Jeanne said...

I love the way T.S. Eliot lifted the title "Napoleon of crime" for one of his characters in Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats and it ended up in the musical CATS.

Anonymous said...

BBC's Sherlock's interpretation of The Final Problem was pretty exciting. Not sure if you watch/have watched those at all.

It has been a while since I've read The Final Problem and I've never read The Return. Your lovely post reminds me that I really must remedy this. Though you'd think all the Holmes/Watson media would've inspired me...

~L (omphaloskepsis)

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Jeanne - I didn't even think about that! I love when literature inspires other authors.

contemplatrix - I LOVE the BBC Sherlock show. The Final Problem episode was so good!

Anonymous said...

I haven't fallen into Sherlock yet... I suppose I will eventually though. That's pretty much how it works, right? :) Thanks for giving an idea of where to start! -Sarah

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Sarah - The Sign of Four is a great place to start!