Lee's Reviews > The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
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Aug 30, 11

bookshelves: fiction
Read from August 29 to 30, 2011 — I own a copy, read count: 1

** spoiler alert ** Another Sherlock Holmes book, another wonderful read. This collection of short stories mainly serves to humanise Holmes. He did not, as some readers may have believed up to this point, pop into existence as a fully grown consulting detective. We hear of his first case as a young man, we hear how he struggled to get any work early on in his career, and we even meet his brother, whose deductive powers surpass even Sherlock's. And of course, most humanising of all, we hear how Sherlock Holmes dies.

Or do we!

The tales in this work are almost all lovely little reads. Their beginnings err towards the formulaic at times, with three or four stories starting with Watson explaining how he hadn't seen Holmes during the first few months after his marriage, but then that Summer... etc. Either Victorian Summers were a lot longer than modern ones or Watson had been indulging in some of Holmes' cocaine and got his dates mixed up.

The only tale I wasn't overly fond of was the last and most famous one in the book: The Final Problem. This is where we meet Professor Moriarty, and Holmes takes down both him and his entire criminal network, albeit at the cost of his own life as he and Moriarty apparently plunge to their deaths over the Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland. If Conan Doyle's aim was to kill off Holmes but in a blaze of glory then this seems an odd way to do it. It's hard to think of Holmes' act as a worthy sacrifice because that depends on us believing that Moriarty is a man whose death is worth the loss of Sherlock Holmes. But at this stage of the canon we've spent some thousand pages learning of Holmes' feats, but only about five pages hearing that "Oh by the way, Moriarty is really bad. Really really bad. Like, the baddest. Seriously." It's the equivalent of introducing a new character five minutes from the end of the last episode of series ten of a TV programme, and having the main character say "Oh noes, you're the worst person ever, quick, let's fight to the death!" Hardly a satisfying conclusion. And given the fact that there are enough holes in Holmes' death to let Conan Doyle bring him back in two books time, he may as well have just had Holmes retire to his bees.
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