Sunday, January 12, 2014

"His Last Bow" by A. Conan Doyle

Now that I've finished this, I only have one collection of Sherlock Holmes stories left to read (The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes), and then I will have read the entire canon in twelve months.  I started back in March of 2013, so as long as I don't take more than six weeks to read the next one, I'll have achieved my goal.

But anyway, about His Last Bow.  I feel that, on a whole, the stories in this are rather better than in the previous collection, The Return of Sherlock Holmes.  Certainly it has more that I quite enjoyed.  I don't know if Doyle had regained some of his joy for the characters or genre, or if I was just more in the mood to like them.  But I really liked "The Adventure of the Dying Detective" and "The Adventure of the Red Circle," and although both "The Adventure of the Cardboard Box" and "The Adventure of the Devil's Foot" are gruesome and grotesque, I quite liked them as well.  "His Last Bow" was also enjoyable for its change of pace and leap a few years into the future from the other cases.

I noticed a bit of a change in Holmes and Watson in this book.  Holmes seems weary of the world and its brutalities, and Watson seems tired of Holmes' eccentricities at times.  Holmes also is much more of a law unto himself -- he goes burgling in "The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans," and he lets a murderer go free without pointing the police toward him at all in another story.  In the past, he'd let a few criminals go, it's true, but he seems a bit more cavalier this time.  Or maybe just tired of doing all the thinking for the police?  He says, "I think you must agree, Watson, that it is not a case in which we are called upon to interfere.  Our investigation has been independent, and our action shall be also.".  It's true that the police didn't bring the case to his attention, but not called upon to interfere?  Holmes is meting out his own justice now, it seems.

At any rate, it's an enjoyable set of mysteries.  Spending time with my dear 'friends' Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson is always pleasant.

Particularly Good Bits:

"My mind is like a racing engine, tearing itself to pieces because it is not connected up with the work for which it was built."  ("The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge")

"What is the meaning of it, Watson?" said Holmes solemnly as he laid down the paper.  "What object is served by this circle of misery and violence and fear?  It must tend to some end, or else our universe is ruled by chance, which is unthinkable.  But what end?  There is the great standing perennial problem to which human reason is as far from an answer as ever."  ("The Adventure of the Cardboard Box")

"Education never ends, Watson.  It is a series of lessons with the greatest for the last."  ("The Adventure of the Red Circle")

"Besides, on general principles it is best that I should not leave the country.  Scotland Yard feels lonely without me, and it causes an unhealthy excitement among the criminal classes."  ("The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax")  (This may be my favorite Sherlock Holmes quote ever.)

"Good old Watson!  You are the one fixed point in a changing age."  ("His Last Bow")

If this was a movie, I would rate it:  PG for dangerous situations, violence, exotic drugs, and suspense.

This is my first book read and reviewed for The Classics Club.


  1. How interesting! I think I might try to tackle Sherlock Holmes myself this year! :)

    1. Oooooooooooooh, really?! If you do, I would suggest you begin with the first collection of short stories, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. They are all first-rate. A Study in Scarlet is the very first book about him, but I think The Adventures gives a better sense of what the stories and characters as a whole are like.

  2. I read The Return of Sherlock Holmes a few months ago and although the stories were good, I noticed some of the spark was missing. But I think Doyle was rushing to produce stories at a publisher's request. Is there any particular story that you like the most?

    1. From what I've read, Doyle killed off Holmes in the first place because he was tired of his popular fictional creation taking all the attention from what Doyle considered to be his more important work, historical novels like The White Company, etc. But public outcry was so loud and long, and the publishers offered him so much money that he agreed to write more. I read recently (please forgive me for not remembering where -- possibly in the introduction to the volume I'm reading) that he went so far as to hold public contests where you could send in plot ideas. And some of these later stories sometimes feel a bit recycled.

      But I digress! My favorite Sherlock Holmes story is The Hound of the Baskervilles. I love the story, the location, the writing, the way the characters interact and behave -- everything. I love a lot of the short stories too, but not as much as that novel.

      Do you have a favorite?

  3. Firstly welcome to the Classics Club.
    Second, I also have SH on my Mt Everest pile of books to read - your review (& so many others make me want to read it) but something else always jumps in first!

    1. Hi! Thanks! I'm quite excited to be part of the club, especially as it introduces me to new blogs and bloggers :-)

      I hope you can find time for Holmes soon! He and Watson are so delightful. I really do feel like they're dear friends I've known for years.


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