The Final Problem saw Holmes pitted face to face with the leader of an organized gang, Professor Moriraty ? an antagonist equal in strength to him, and getting killed in a duel in Switzerland. Moriarty runs a crime syndicate using agents, himself doing nothing. Holmes ? the foremost upholder of law tries in vain to get to him. But all his powers of deduction prove futile to come up with evidence that could book the criminal. Yet, he wants to remove this ultimate source of crime out of the world, even if that means getting killed him self.
The story is told through Watson, who is actually trying to save Holmes posthumously from baseless charges leveled by the brother of the professor.
The story is unique in giving a very human touch to Holmes ? showing him in fear, danger, reacting as a human when faced with a man as intelligent as himself. He knows the danger he is in. And he wants this to be the summation of all his life?s work of fighting against criminals.
The narrative is very serious in style, and shows Holmes taking the case as a personal initiative, unlike normal cases that come to him.
The story proceeds with a meeting of Holmes and Watson, where Holmes describes the final antagonist and his resolve to weed him out at any cost to himself. He describes the danger he is in, being attacked twice, and his building catching fire. This is followed up by a meeting with Moriarty when he picks up his revolver for a potential duel.
The story proceeds with the whole gang being caught except the professor with the help of evidence gathered by Holmes. He now expects the professor to take revenge from him. The two friends proceed to Switzerland where they are followed by the professor. The expected duel takes place on a cliff, where both fall down to their death.
Some memorable excerpts from the story:
HOLMES FACES DANGER
"At the same time, it is stupidity rather than courage to refuse to recognize danger when it is close upon you."
It was not Holmes's nature to take an aimless holiday and something about his pale, worn face told me that his nerves were at their highest tension.
HOLMES TAKES UP A PERSONAL MISSION
"I tell you Watson, in all seriousness, that if I could beat that man, if I could free society of him, I should feel that my own career had reached its summit."
But I could not rest. Watson, I could not sit quiet in my chair, if I thought that such a man as Professor Moriarty were walking the street
s of London unchallenged."
HOLMES DESCRIBES MORIARTY
"He is the Napoleon of crime, Watson. He is the organizer of half that is evil and of nearly all that is undetected in this great city. He is a genius, a philosopher, an abstract thinker. He has a brain of the first order. He sits motionless, like a spider in the centre of its web, but that web has a thousand radiations, and he knows well every quiver of each of them. He does little himself. He only plans. But his agents are numerous and splendidly organized.
THE EQUAL ANTAGONIST
You know my powers, my dear Watson, and yet at the end of three months I was forced to confess that I had at last met an antagonist who was my intellectual equal. My horror at his crimes was lost in my admiration at his skill. But at last he made a trip -- only a little, little trip but it was more than he could afford, when I was so close upon him."
HOLMES VOWS TO CAPTURE HIM
"In over a thousand cases I am not aware that I have ever used my powers upon the wrong side. ?Your memoirs will draw to an end, Watson, upon the day that I crown my career by the capture or extinction of the most dangerous and capable criminal in Europe."
HOLMES EXPECTS REVENGE
"This man's occupation is gone. He is lost if he returns to London. If I read his character right he will devote his whole energies to revenging himself upon me."
THE LAST OF HOLMES
As I turned away I saw Holmes, with his back against a rock and his arms folded, gazing down at the rush of the waters. It was the last that I was ever destined to see of him in this world.
Two lines of footmarks were clearly marked along the farther end of the path, both leading away from me. There were none returning.
Any attempt at recovering the bodies was absolutely hopeless, and 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.
WATSON?S LAST THOUGHTS ON HOLMES
(Him) whom I shall ever regard as the best and the wisest man whom I have ever known.
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