I’m starting to become quite the fan of these Sherlock Holmes mysteries.
The plotting is obviously the best part of these stories, but along the way Doyle has quietly created a pair of characters in Holmes and Watson who have incrementally revealed themselves to the reader, to the point that you don’t really recognize the characterization that has been developed.
I recently saw Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows in the movie theatre, and while you can see a lot of the pieces from the book that were used in the movie, I found that — as is so often the case — I like the book’s characterization far better than the movie. The movie is funnier, but Sherlock is clearly more annoying on the big screen than he is within Doyle’s pages. Doyle’s Sherlock is a more realistic version — a man so absorbed in his own thoughts that he has difficulty paying attention to what is going on around him unless it interests him somehow.
The relationship between Sherlock and Watson has slowly become one of the strengths of the series, and is perhaps at its best at the end of “The Final Problem,” when we see how Watson is affected by the attack upon Sherlock. To be honest, this story disappointed me a bit, because whereas the stories had been so creatively plotted in the past, this seemed a bit lazy in contrast. Everyone in the world could see that Dr. Watson was being drawn away from Sherlock so Moriarty could attack him, and since the fight took place on a ledge next to a powerful waterfall, it’s also incredibly uninspired to have the duo fall into the water to their apparent deaths. In this regard, the most interesting aspect of the story isn’t the story itself, it’s the introduction to THE COMPLETE SHERLOCK HOLMES by Christopher and Barbara Roden, where they recall that Doyle was growing tired of writing the Sherlock short stories, at one point quoting an outrageous price in the hopes that they would stop asking. Instead, the magazine met that price and Doyle had to continue writing the stories, which unsurprisingly took a lot of time and energy to plot — as much as a regular novel, Doyle said. In this “The Final Problem” we saw how Doyle chose to try and avoid writing more Sherlock stories, although we also know how futile this effort was, as I’m still only about halfway through this compendium.
For that, I’m quite glad.