Everybody knows the tale of Sherlock Holmes’ battle to the death with Professor Moriarty – how the two arch-enemies grappled at the Reichenbach Falls, both falling to their apparent deaths, only for Holmes to reappear years later to thwart Colonel Moran in The Adventure Of The Empty House. But apparently this was a fiction created by Dr John Watson to cover the truth behind the Great Detective’s disappearance.
Holmes was lost to his cocaine addiction, obsessed with stalking an innocent teacher of Mathematics, and Watson turned to Mycroft Holmes for advice. A plan is concocted to trick Holmes into following a false trail to Vienna and into the clutches of the one man who can cure him of his addiction – Sigmund Freud himself.
You know what has always bothered me about The Final Problem? The line about Moriarty having written a new treatise on The Binomial Theorem. Seriously? That’s like giving a seminar on the quadratic formula – there just isn’t anything new to say about it. Well, this was part of the evidence that convinced Nicholas Meyer that this new record from Dr Watson was genuine.
By the way, in case you hadn’t grasped, we’re getting a bit meta here, in the days before meta was a thing. In fact, the footnotes explaining how certain bits and bobs tie into the Holmes canon (and in a couple of cases, other literature) that are the only thing to moan about here – some of them are interesting, but after a while, it felt they were getting in the way.
But as I said, that is my only moan. This is a wonderful Holmes pastiche that feels like it could have come from the pen of Conan Doyle himself. Both the cocaine addiction and the subsequent investigation (what, you thought there wouldn’t be a case to solve in Vienna?) are very well done. Meyer gives us a convincing “missing” adventure – I won’t go into details, as this aspect of the story takes a while to kick off, well past my spoiler cut-off – and while the final look into Holmes’ past seems a little indiscrete on the part of Watson, it gives that tale a satisfying closure.
If reading is a bit too arduous for you, there is a film version directed by Meyer himself, starring Nicol Williamson, Robert Duvall, Alan Arkin and Sir Laurence Olivier. I’ve not seen it, but apparently it’s pretty good.
Meyer has gone on to write three more Holmes pastiches, the latest of which, The Affair Of The Peculiar Protocols is out tomorrow. I read this one in preparation for that one, which I’m looking forward to immensely – expect the review very soon.