The Final Problem – Hounds Summary

Ralph Edwards – Fri, 24 Feb 1995

  • Were all Watson’s manuscripts written in pen and not in pencil?
  • What do “incoherent” and “entirely inadequate” signify?
  • What could have been the Colonel’s defense of his brother’s memory?
  • Who might have maligned the memory of the late Professor Moriarty?
  • Didn’t Watson stop by at 221B from time to time?
  • Did Holmes ever write (not wire) to Watson at any other time?
  • Do Nimes and Narbonne have any particular significance?
  • Why air-guns and not, say, gunshots?
  • Didn’t Holmes carry matches?
  • Why go to the Continent, away from English law? Why did Holmes invite Watson?
  • When did a quiet fashion of living replace “Give me problems, give me work”?
  • When did chemical research give way to bees?
  • Was the Binomial Theorem worth the position at a university?
  • Did Moriarty limit himself to forgery, robbery, and murder?
  • Does Holmes’ description of Moriarty as one “who sits motionless…who only plans and does little himself” agree with Moriarty’s actions in this case?
  • What was the reason for the three-day delay over a weekend?
  • Was Moriarty the sort to shoot or attack Holmes personally at 221B?
  • Would a one-horse van have been preferable?
  • Did Moriarty’s attacks reflect finesse or merely organizational breadth?
  • What trusty messenger could Watson employ?
  • Would the unknown departure of a dangerous guest lessen Watson’s danger?
  • Where did Holmes spend the evening? Where did the Italian priest obtain his luggage and belongings?
  • How competent were Moriarty’s men in setting a fire in a room cluttered with newspapers and chemicals which caused no great harm?
  • Did Holmes expect Moriarty to wait for two days in Paris and then return to London to be arrested?
  • Was Moran part of the gang that the London police had secured?
  • Compare “over a thousand cases” with “the seventy odd cases…during the last eight years” (SPEC).
  • Why did Moriarty choose confrontation instead of ambush?
  • Which man walked in front of the other along the three-foot path, with sheer wall on one side and sheer drop on the other? Or did they walk side-by-side? If so, who walked next to the wall?
  • Was pigeonhole M in the fire-damaged rooms?

Chris Redmond – Fri, 17 May 1996

Most of the Sherlock Holmes tales are “The Adventure of” something or other. Only this one and “Thor Bridge” use the word “Problem” in their titles. In what sense is it more a “problem” than an “adventure”?

Sonia Fetherston – Fri, 8 Aug 1997

Remember that feeling of doom the first time you read “It is with a heavy heart that I take up my pen to write these the last words…”?! This week we take a closer look at FINA, starting with the following questions and comments:

  • FINA is fraught with danger and, in fact, the words “danger” and “dangerous” repeat throughout the story. For example, Holmes calls himself a “dangerous guest” and a “dangerous companion,” but he also says the criminal strain in Moriarty’s blood made the Professor “infinitely more dangerous.” How are their dangers different?
    As the story opens, both Moriarty and Holmes are presumed dead. Their battle continues, however, with Watson and Moriarty’s brother dueling in ink. Not exactly a clash of the Titans, but isn’t Watson the clear victor?
  • Holmes predicts that proceedings against Moriarty and his gang will be “the greatest criminal trial of the century.” Since that trial was not to take place, can you name any other great criminal trials of the 19th century that can claim that title? (I can only think of 2 “greatest” criminal trials from that time!)
  • Where do you suppose Watson learned a smattering of Italian?
  • Holmes says Moriarty is his intellectual equal, but we can see that Moriarty is no mere “thinking machine.” A range of feelings is evident in his brief appearance in Baker Street: curiosity, grief, and sadness. Isn’t he more of a real, rounded personality than Holmes?

Steve Clarkson – Fri, 23 Oct 1998

“…there, deep down in that dreadful cauldron of swirling water and seething foam, will lie for all time the most dangerous criminal and the foremost champion of the law of their generation.”

Sherlock Holmes — dead? Battered on the rocks and pulled under by the torrent of the Reichenbach Falls? Small comfort, indeed, that he took with him that consummate captain of crime, the malevolent Moriarty. How did things come to this evil pass? How was Moriarty able to wreak vengeance upon his nemesis, Sherlock Holmes? Even the brave and faithful Dr. Watson was unable to save Holmes from his dreadful doom.

In a few minutes, the Mâitre de Chasse will sound a mournful call to the hunt for the Hounds of the Internet and will lose them upon those who dared to harm the Master Detective. The trail begins in London and ends, alas, amid the torn-up brambles and ferns at the end of the footpath above Reichenbach Falls. Beyond that point, even the Hounds cannot pursue…or can they?

It’s a good thing this Adventure didn’t turn out to be the last one because if it were I’d be wearing a black armband right about now, as did many of the Victorian aficionados of the Great Detective. I will be forever grateful to the Literary Agent for persuading Dr. Watson to continue his chronicles of Holmes’ cases.

When Holmes furtively visits Watson’s digs and goes around closing all the shutters on the windows, he admits to a paranoia about air-guns. This paranoia also extended to the belief that Watson’s house was being watched, and perforce Holmes would exit the premises by the expedient of “‘scrambling over [Watson’s] back wall.'” Given that Moriarty was as formidable as Holmes depicted him to be, and that Moriarty’s only penalty for failure by his minions was death, how could Holmes expect Watson’s back wall to be unwatched? Incredible as it seems, though, the ploy worked because Holmes later says “‘They must have lost my track completely after their bludgeonman was arrested.'” Is it credible that Moriarty would not have had a “shadow” following the bludgeonman in the event that Holmes escaped the rough’s tender ministrations? Did Holmes overestimate Moriarty?

We don’t officially “know” it from the text of this Adventure, but Moriarty had at his disposal one of the world’s finest heavy-game shots. Horse-drawn vans, bricks, bludgeon-wielding roughs, boulders…does anyone else find it puzzling that no one tried using a firearm to put a quietus on Holmes?

In his tête-à-tête with Holmes, Moriarty whips out a notebook, consults it, and says “‘You crossed my path on the fourth of January.'” The context of his further remarks makes it clear that he is referring to January of that year. Yet Holmes told Watson that he had been trying to penetrate Moriarty’s organization for years. How was it possible, then, that Moriarty, that great spider with a web spun all over London and beyond, only became aware of Holmes and the threat he posed a mere four months before the downfall of his organization?

Following Holmes’ instructions to the letter, Watson writes, “A hansom was procured with such precautions as would prevent its being one which was placed ready for us.” “Us?” Who accompanied Watson on his trip to the Lowther Arcade?

Here’s one for the thespians among the List Members: When he arrived at Victoria, Watson encountered a venerable Italian priest who proved to be Holmes in disguise. I can understand a black hat and cassock, but how does one contort one’s face so that one’s nose is drawn closer to one’s chin, and cause one’s nose to resume its normal location in a mere instant? And how does one make one’s eyes either dull or fiery at will?

Lastly, why would an innkeeper allow a consumptive to stay in his establishment if tuberculosis is so contagious? Would someone with active tuberculosis even have been allowed to enter other countries?

Discover more about The Final Problem and read the canon.