Banner art by Chelsea Sprauer

Everyone’s heard of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson, but how much do you really know about the residents of 221B Baker Street? In addition to four novellas (one of which we covered at GUY.Com), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote five collections of 56 short stories starring the world-famous detective and his faithful associate. We’ll be spotlighting 20 of them, to get you caught up just in time for Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. All of these stories are public domain, so find a free copy online and read along!

His Last Bow

Found in: “His Last Bow”

The Case: On the eve of World War I, a German spy is set to leave England with four years’ worth of collected intel.

The Solution: *His American contact is Sherlock Holmes in disguise.*

Impressions and Fingerprints: This is one of only two stories that are told from a third-person perspective, instead of Watson’s POV. That said, the third-person narrator seems to focus on the villain’s side of the story, which is remarkable in itself.

Furthermore, this story is highly unusual in that it starts at the climax, when Holmes has already solved the case, and then tells the details of how we got to that point. This shift in focus away from the crime-solving aspect might lead this story to be classified as a spy thriller, rather than a mystery.

Though Conan Doyle wrote and published a few stories afterward, this is chronologically the final adventure of Sherlock Holmes. After this point, Holmes retired to go into bee-keeping. What happened to Watson, we may never know.

Is it still worth it? This is unmistakably a piece of pre-WWI propaganda, and it’s rather disconcerting that the bulk of Sherlock’s work happened before this story begins. The story is significant enough that it’s worth reading, though “The Final Problem” was definitely a worthier send-off for the great detective.

Part 20: “The Last Bow”
Part 19: “The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place”
Part 18: “The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone”
Part 17: “The Adventure of the Abbey Grange”
Part 16: “The Adventure of the Dancing Men”
Part 15: “The Adventure of the Empty House”
Part 14: “The Final Problem”
Part 13: “The Naval Treaty”
Part 12: “The Crooked Man”
Part 11: “The Reigate Puzzle”
Part 10: “The Greek Interpreter”
Part 9: “The Musgrave Ritual”
Part 8: “The Adventure of the Speckled Band”
Part 7: “Silver Blaze”
Part 6: “The Five Orange Pips”
Part 5: “The Adventure of the Copper Beeches”
Part 4: “The Boscombe Valley Mystery”
Part 3: “A Case of Identity”
Part 2: “A Scandal in Bohemia”
Part 1: “The Red-Headed League”