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Bryan

Bry's Bountiful Book Blog

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His Last Bow -  Arthur Conan Doyle

Although very repetitive and formulaic, I really enjoy the Sherlock Holmes short stories. They're fast paced, entertaining mystery nuggets that moulded a genre and even make great television to this day. Strangely, although this was the second last Holmes book to be published, it contains the last adventure of the great detective. I'll go through the stories one by one.

 

The Adventure Of Wisteria Lodge: The longest story of this particular collection, this story had some of the typical Holmes tropes; an introductory verbal exchange where Holmes shows off how smart he is (although, somewhat breaking from tradition, this time it's not Watson playing the witless foil), and Holmes solving the majority of the mystery "off-stage". There is some interesting voodoo stuff in this one, and also some unusual (for Conan Doyle) racial politics portrayed in the latter half of the story. Now usually, Conan Doyle is as backward and hamfisted in his portrayals of non-Caucasian ethnicities as most turn-of-the-century British writers, but in this story he actually shows a peasant revolt in a Latin American country to have been a positive and just thing. Interesting.

 

The Adventure Of The Cardboard Box: A more average Holmes story, but the culprit was quite relatable, in that he had been wronged and was meting out (an admittedly over-the-top) vengeance. This one starts out with Watson once again being flabbergasted by how easily Holmes can read him. You'd think he'd be used to it by now.

 

The Adventure Of The Red Circle: An international gang and a promise of revenge/murder. In some ways, this is a similar plotline to The Valley Of Fear, and also A Study In Scarlet (especially the latter, as the main suspect in this story ended up being a fairly sympathetic character who was basically acting in self-defence). One of the main characteristics in the story is coded messages sent through the obituaries, a trope which has been used repeatedly in all sorts of stories written since this one.

 

The Adventure Of The Bruce-Partington Plans: This was a fantastic tale, complete with espionage and skulduggery, and Mycroft Holmes to boot. This is essentially a spy story, and Conan Doyle carries it off nicely and with a good degree of verisimilitude, with the notable exception of the dude who dies of "shame". It's in this story that Holmes says that his brother Mycroft "sometimes is the British government," which is saying a lot more about him than was ever previously mentioned.

 

The Adventure Of The Dying Detective: Holmes annoyed me in this one. His whole scam seems like it would have been much easier to pull off if he had brought Watson into his confidence and used Watson as a sort of "extra medical advisor." Instead, he insults and patronizes Watson while lying to him, all in order to make it a more convincing ruse. Watson is quite a tolerant fellow, as I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have put up with this sort of behaviour from one of my friends.

 

The Disappearance Of Lady Frances Carfax: Watson carries a fair portion of this story, meeting up with a disguised Holmes partway through (much like in The Hound Of The Baskervilles). Holmes accuses Watson of bungling the portion of the case he was to investigate (and he did), but Holmes very nearly drops the ball at the end, and indeed, his quarry ends up getting away. One of the few cases where Holmes seems to have somewhat failed.

 

The Adventure Of The Devil's Foot: A fairly straightforward plot in terms of the mystery and solution, or maybe I'm just well-acquainted with Conan Doyle's style. Still, an interesting and enjoyable yarn. I've noticed a tendency for Holmes to forgive vigilante justice if he considers it warranted, as he clearly does in this case.

 

His Last Bow: Another enjoyable read, although not nearly as good a spy thriller as The Bruce-Partington Plans. Actually, Holmes makes for a pretty terrible spy. After going through a considerable amount of trouble to create a cover identity that the Germans trust in order to feed them false information, he intentionally blows his cover and gives away his false info as false to a German spy that he knows will probably be let go. Lousy spycraft, really. Also, it's kind of strange that although Watson is present for the entire story, this is the one Sherlock Holmes story told from the third person perspective, instead of first person from Watson's perspective. I'm not entirely sure why Conan Doyle chose to do that.

 

Well, even considering the war propaganda feel that the titular story had, this was a good collection. I'm looking forward to reading the last of the Holmes books, The Case Book Of Sherlock Holmes, although I'd be lying if I said that I didn't feel a little sad to be nearing the end.