Rereading: HIS LAST BOW by A. Conan Doyle


Continuing my revisit to the entire Sherlock Holmes canon on my phone and iPad (first edition cover above). This book is relatively short, containing only seven stories, though the first, “The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge,” was long enough to run in two parts in The Strand magazine. It’s a somewhat familiar idea with a man being lured to a remote estate in the country where a murder takes place, and the innocent visitor is under suspicion as the murderer, so he turns to Holmes to prove his innocence. One other character, local Police Inspector Baynes turns out to be nearly as clever and resourceful as Holmes himself, and the two of them race to the solution. Good reading.

In “The Adventure of the Red Circle,” a landlord comes to Holmes with complaints about a very mysterious lodger who has not been seen in person since moving in, and seems to have odd habits and cryptic communications in note form. Holmes takes the case, discovering that someone is communicating with the lodger through newspaper ads and signals from a nearby house. A sinister plot is uncovered, and some exciting action ensues.

“The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans” is both a cracking good mystery and a spy thriller, in fact perhaps the first such story ever. Stolen government weapons plans, a murdered body at a very unlikely place, Holmes and Watson breaking and entering, even Mycroft Holmes is involved. Great reading.

“The Adventure of the Dying Detective” has Holmes at death’s door, and very reluctant to allow Dr. Watson to treat him. Holmes says he his highly contagious and begs Watson to bring a specialist on rare infections to see him in his rooms. The man is question is clearly a shady character who is quite delighted to have Holmes sick and perhaps dying. He comes to gloat. Fine reading.

“The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax” has a somewhat gullible rich English woman disappearing in Europe, suspected of abduction or foul play. Holmes and Watson head to the continent to investigate and are soon on the trail of a suspicious bearded man, but the final solution takes them back to London again. Another enjoyable story.

“The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot” brings Holmes to the moors of Cornwall, where a social evening of card playing has turned bizarre, leaving two men insane and a woman dead. Holmes suspects a rare poison is involved, and even puts his own life at risk with it during the investigation. A nicely creepy mystery.

“His Last Bow,” the final and title story is the only one in the collection I didn’t care for. It’s in third person, and is another spy story, not really a mystery at all. Holmes and Watson appear well into the narrative, Watson mostly off-scene, and while this adventure brings Holmes’ work to the brink of World War One, it does so in a way that seems sad and melancholy, as if the world Holmes knew and relished for decades has faded away, as has Holmes, only coming out of retirement for this last adventure.

In all, the collection is well worth reading and recommended.

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