Friday, 11 September 2015

'His Last Bow' by Arthur Conan Doyle (1917)

Synopsis: His Last Bow is the eighth book in the Sherlock Holmes series and is a collection of seven short stories that were sporadically published between August 1908 and September 1917. The stories were then put together into a book in October 1917. The seven stories in this book are The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge, The Adventure of the Red Circle, The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans, The Adventure of the Dying Detective, The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax, The Adventure of the Devil's Foot and His Last Bow. The title story is the last of the Sherlock Holmes stories chronologically, is told in third-person rather than in John Watson's perspective, and takes place near the start of WWI. Sherlock Holmes has now retired from detective work and has taken up beekeeping at his new home in the Sussex Downs. However, Holmes is then asked to come out of retirement to aid the government in the war effort and invites his old friend John Watson to provide some assistance in a case...

At the end of November last year I set myself the challenge of finishing off all of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes books. His Last Bow is the penultimate book in the series and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it! I wouldn't say that this book is as good as the Adventures and Memoirs collections but there are still some brilliant stories in it and I definitely liked it quite a bit more than The Return of Sherlock Holmes (which I still really enjoyed) and The Valley of Fear. My top three favourite stories from this book were:

The Adventure of the Bruce Partington Plans - This story is a lot of fun! It reminded me quite a bit of The Naval Treaty and yet it didn't feel like a rip-off of that story like The Second Stain did. I love how this story starts as well: a dense fog has been swirling around London and Holmes has been spending some time studying up on the Medieval era (a nice detail that). Holmes has gotten bored with this though and is extremely annoyed that criminals aren't taking advantage of the fog to commit more crimes. :D The Bruce Partington Plans is also the second of the two stories in the canon that feature Mycroft Holmes and I love Mycroft! In The Bruce Partington Plans we learn more about Mycroft - that he sometimes is the British Government - and he gets some very amusing lines in it. I especially love his moaning about having to be away from the office with Siam in its present state, and the part where he basically admits that the only reason why he's not out there solving the case of the Bruce Partington Plans himself is because it involves field work. Interestingly enough, Mycroft also shows up at Baker Street accompanied by Lestrade in this one. Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss ought to take note. I don't think Lestrade and Mycroft have shared a scene together yet in their show, even though The Hounds of Baskerville established that they speak to each other and have some kind of a working relationship. Oh, and another interesting thing about this story? There's another character called Violet in it! Arthur Conan Doyle must have really liked the name!

The Adventure of the Devil's Foot - This story was my absolute favourite in this book. It's awesome! In this story a seriously overworked Holmes is told by both Watson and one of Watson's colleagues that he's in desperate need of a rest or he'll suffer a complete breakdown. So Holmes goes off to a cottage near Poldhu Bay in Cornwall for a holiday. Watson goes with him of course and the two of them have a fairly nice and relaxing time... that is, until the local vicar tells them that a woman has apparently been frightened to death and that her two brothers have been driven insane. The Devil's Foot has a similar premise to The Reigate Squire but its West Country setting and awesomely creepy, gothic atmosphere reminded me very much of The Hound of the Baskervilles. I love it whenever Arthur Conan Doyle goes gothic! There's also a highly suspenseful scene in this story where Holmes foolishly places both himself and Watson in great peril in order to test the effects of some drugs. Watson only manages to save the two of them with some great effort. This story also features that famous "I followed you. I saw no one. That is what you may expect to see when I follow you" exchange, and there's another great part where someone accuses Holmes of being the devil himself and Holmes actually takes it as a compliment! The Devil's Foot is a terrific story and I very much hope that it's adapted for the BBC's Sherlock!

His Last Bow - I know I've put this story down as being one of my favourites from this book but actually my feelings are a bit mixed. The third-person narration in this felt quite weird to me and there's barely any mystery or intrigue in the story at all. That being said the scenes between Holmes and Watson in this story are lovely, the "East Wind" speech is poetic and beautiful, and there are some very funny references to Moriarty, Sebastian Moran and Irene Adler. All in all, I think this story is a fitting end for Holmes :)

Rating: 4.5/5


Hayden said...

Yes, I'm very fond of this volume! I especially love the story "His Last Bow" because of the American slang-- it cracks me up ever time. "The Devil's Foot" is also another favorite. I recently reread that one and was surprised I had forgotten how many good lines it has in it. :)

Hannah said...

I really enjoyed it! I didn't enjoy it as much as 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' or the Adventures and Memoirs collections but I liked it more than the other novels and The Return collection, so out of all of the Sherlock Holmes books that I've read so far it's right in the middle.

Ah yes, I remember finding Henry Baskerville's slang in 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' highly amusing ("By thunder!", "They're playing me like a sucker!") I can just picture Arthur Conan Doyle sitting there at his desk and thinking "Hmm, now how can I make this character sound like he's from the New World?"

The Devil's Foot, The Copper Beeches and The Red-Headed League are the stories that I most wish Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss would adapt for 'Sherlock' :)

Hamlette said...

Good job, well done!

There's a line in the Granada version of "The Devil's Foot" that Cowboy and I quote a LOT: "Sea air! Sunshine! Patience! All will be revealed."

Hannah said...

Thanks! It won't be long before I'll be finished with the canon and then I can finally start watching the Granada version! :D