Sherlockian Shorts – His Last Bow

First published in 1917, His Last Bow is the final Sherlock Holmes story to appear in The Strand Magazine, and is the final story in the collection of the same title.

What’s It About?

Van Bork, a German agent working in Britain in 1914, is preparing to leave England for the final time. With only a few loose ends to tie up, he has a meeting with his informant, the American Altamont, who has brought his some secret naval signals. But all is not what it seems…

Is It A Mystery?

Not in the slightest. It’s a thriller, and, given its publication date, it’s a propaganda piece as well.

Is It Any Good?

I actually rather enjoyed it. The twist, such as it is, is stunningly obvious, and, for a master-spy, Van Bork is really quite stupid at times – Holmes compares him favourably to Professor Moriaty and Colonel Moran, but that’s a bit generous. But it’s well written and, I thought, a decent swansong for Holmes.

Anything Else?

I wonder – when this first appeared, was it advertised as a Sherlock Holmes story? The nature of the twist would be much more effective if this was just advertised as a thriller from the pen of Conan Doyle. Does anyone have any information on this?


  1. When it first appeared, it went under the subtitle THE WAR SERVICE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES, so I guess just about every reader saw the big twist coming! It’s a highly emotional piece, and it’s interesting in that it works as both a piece of propaganda and a swansong for the character. We have Holmes and Watson watching the sun going down on all that they had known, awaiting an unsettled and bloody future.


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