The Final Problem is very different from most other Sherlock Holmes stories.
Instead of sitting in Baker Street contemplating a case, Sherlock Holmes is running for his life.
The story is like a cat and mouse chase - with Sherlock Holmes trying to catch master-criminal Moriarty who is trying to catch Holmes before he catches him. Ahem.
The drama element in this story is splendid - the story reads like a spy novel.
It is also one of the most emotional Sherlock Holmes stories out there. You can't help getting teary-eyed as you read the last line of this story for the first time...
OK, let me put it this way: there's no case to solve here, no deductions about dogs and trains and no mind-blowing mystery either.
And yet, this story is unforgettable for it makes you realize how much you care about Sherlock Holmes.
Here are my ratings for the story:
It's not a client who's in a mess, it's the Sherlock Holmes who has a pretty huge problem on his hands.
The problem is - someone's after his life.
This someone is the smartest criminal the world has ever known: Professor Moriarty.
He's after Sherlock Holmes because Holmes has almost exposed Moriarty's criminal gang - and within a few days - he might just get the Professor himself arrested.
Does Moriarty finally catch Sherlock Holmes and kill him? Does Sherlock Holmes manage to outwit someone who is not a dumbo like other criminals - but actually as mind-bogglingly intelligent as himself?
The Final Problem is a bit like an exciting football game - with one side winning and then the other side winning and then the first side winning again!
It's tense at times, exciting at other times and saddening at yet other times...
The big question, of course, is: what's the score going to read at the end?
It's rare to see Sherlock Holmes walk into Watson's house and say that...
He generally summons Watson with telegrams or asks him to quickly join him in a case. But in The Final Problem, he walks right in and then this happens:
Definitely a gripping start to the story.
By the way, here's an interesting list of stories in which Sherlock Holmes actually seeks Watson out:
Sherlock Holmes is a smart-ass. But then, so is the criminal lord of London - Moriarty.
When two fantastically marvelous brains talk to each other, what's that like?
It goes like this:
When I read that for the first time, I absolutely loved it.
No direct intimidation. Both the guys know that the other guy's getting what they're trying to say.
This interaction between Holmes and Moriarty is definitely a magical moment from the story.
Generally, we tend to view Sherlock Holmes as a bit selfish - you know - a bit too biased towards whether he likes a case or not.
In fact, there are times in other stories when Holmes is very excited about solving a problem just when his client is all upset.
But in The Final Problem, Sherlock Holmes says something to Moriarty that's beautiful and very noble.
He basically says he doesn't care about his life - if that will help save the world.
Holmes disguising himself and making Watson gasp is not new.
It happens in wa...y too many stories.
But I love it whenever it happens! It's fun. :-)
Poor Watson is in a reserved train compartment, waiting for Sherlock Holmes.
Then he spots a venerable Italian priest who's sitting in Watson and Holmes' reserved compartment. Watson tries telling the priest that the compartment's reserved. But the priest knows only Italian and doesn't get it.
That's when the priest says:
The Italian priest is Sherlock Holmes in disguise!
Ah, to imagine Watson's face at that moment.. :-)
This moment is without doubt, one of the most emotional moments in all the Sherlock Holmes stories.
It's the moment when John Watson finishes reading Holmes' last note before his 'death'.
Yes, we all know that Sherlock Holmes bounces back in The Empty House. But I can only imagine how those Victorian people of 1893 must have felt - when they read that Sherlock Holmes was dead.
Even my eyes were moist when I read what Watson says about Holmes after mentioning the final note:
Conan Doyle has written this part of The Final Problem perfectly.
Despite knowing that Holmes would be back in The Empty House, I felt sad that Holmes had apparently died.
When was The Final Problem first published? How many movies and TV shows have used scenes from the story?
Take a peek at some must-know facts about the story!
Sherlock Holmes says that when master-criminal Professor Moriarty was 21 years old, he rocked the world with his cool 'treatise' on the binomial theorem.
So, what's this theorem in simple words and when exactly did someone come up with it?
Here's what the binomial theorem is:
It basically tells you how to calculate the 'nth' power of the sum of any two numbers. So, if you want to quickly find out what (500+33) raised to the power 23 is, you can use the binomial theorem.
Apparently, it was Euclid who first came up with a basic form of the binomial theorem in the 3rd century BC.
There were plenty of other guys who improved the theorem till Isaac Newton nailed it almost completely in the 17th century.
Many, many countries have issued stamps with Sherlock Holmes on them. And a few of those stamps feature The Final Problem!
Here's an interesting picture that shows some of the stamps that feature Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty's ultimate fight at the Reichenbach Falls:
Thanks to Steve from Trussel.com for the stamp pictures!
Sherlock Holmes and Watson follow a long-drawn, uncommon route as they run from Moriarty.
They first take the Continental Express from London's Victoria station to a place called Canterbury (England).
Now, normally, the train would have continued from Canterbury to Dover in England.
Then from Dover, they would have taken a boat to the French city of Calais. They could then go to Paris. But they don't do this. That route is apparently too obvious.
So, Holmes and Watson alight at Canterbury - and here's what they do instead!
Sherlock Holmes finally gives it a go with Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls which are very near Meiringen, Switzerland.
The Reichenbach Falls near Meiringen - are one of the most famous places associated with Sherlock Holmes today.
I mean, come on - that's where Sherlock Holmes almost falls to his death. After a cracker of a fight with Moriarty.
Here's a picture of the real Reichenbach Falls:
By the way, do you know what Reichenbach means?
Apparently, it means 'rich and powerful stream' in Old High German. (Old High German is one of the earliest forms of German.)
When I read about Sherlock Holmes dying, I was melancholy for a few minutes.
Despite knowing he'd be back.
Now, imagine how the original Victorian readers of Doyle from the Strand Magazine must have felt.
These guys (and girls) didn't know that Sherlock Holmes would be back. And they were used to an exciting, new Holmes story every month or so. Before Doyle dropped the bomb on them.
They must have felt as melancholy as me - only - 10 times more.
Here's what Arthur Conan Doyle himself said about how people reacted to Holmes' death. This extract is from his autobiography Memories and Adventures:
But that wasn't it!
According to the book Teller of Tales by Daniel Stashower, the Strand Magazine lost quite some subscribers when Holmes said 'bye':
According to the BBC, Sherlock Holmes fans in the US actually started a club called 'Let's Keep Holmes Alive.'
I guess it must've been like one of those online petitions we have these days.
In the book, The Doctor and the Detective, Martin Booth says:
Now this does seem a bit far-fetched, and some people say there were no arm-bands - but you sort of get the point.
People were heart-broken. They were angry. And they were expressive about it.
Those few months after The Final Problem was published mustn't have been a good time to be Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
What, you're saying you haven't read The Final Problem yet? Or, maybe you read it eons ago?
Here's where to read it: