The Adventure of the Final Problem

From Academic Kids

Template:Holmes infobox

The Adventure of the Final Problem is a short story by Arthur Conan Doyle, featuring his detective character Sherlock Holmes. It was first published in Strand Magazine in December 1893. It appears in book form as part of the collection The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. Conan Doyle later ranked "The Adventure of the Final Problem" fourth on his personal list of the twelve best Holmes stories.


This is the story, set in 1891, that introduces Holmes's greatest opponent, the criminal mastermind Professor Moriarty.

Holmes arrives at Dr. Watson’s one evening in a somewhat agitated state and with barked knuckles. He has apparently escaped three murder attempts that day after a visit from Professor Moriarty, who warned him to withdraw from his pursuit of justice against him to avoid any regrettable outcome.

Holmes has been tracking Moriarty and his agents for months, and is on the brink of snaring them all and delivering them to the dock. Moriarty is the nexus of a highly organized criminal force, and Holmes will consider it the crowning achievement of his career if only he can defeat Moriarty. Moriarty, of course, is out to thwart Holmes’s plans and is well capable of doing so, for he is, as Holmes admits, the great detective’s intellectual equal.

Holmes asks Watson to come to the Continent with him, giving him unusual instructions designed to hide his tracks to Victoria Station. Holmes is not quite sure where they will go, and this seems rather odd to Watson. Holmes then leaves Watson’s by climbing over the back wall in the garden, certain that he has been followed to his friend’s.

The next day, Watson follows Holmes’s instructions to the letter and finds himself waiting in the reserved first-class coach for his friend, but only an elderly Italian priest is there. The cleric soon makes it apparent, though, that he is Holmes in disguise.

As the train pulls out of Victoria, Holmes spots Moriarty on the platform, apparently trying to get someone to stop the train. Holmes is forced to take action, as Moriarty has obviously tracked Watson, despite extraordinary precautions. He and Watson alight at Canterbury, changing their route plan. As they are waiting for another train to Newhaven, a special one-coach train roars through Canterbury, as Holmes suspected it would. It contains Moriarty, of course, who has hired the train in an effort to overtake Holmes. Holmes and Watson are forced to hide behind some luggage.

Holmes receives a message that most of Moriarty’s gang have been arrested in England, and Holmes recommends that Watson return there now that Holmes will likely be a very dangerous companion. Moriarty himself has slipped out of the English police’s grasp and is obviously with them on the Continent.

Holmes’s and Watson’s journey take them to Switzerland where they stay at Meiringen. From there, they fatefully decide to take a walk which will include a visit to Reichenbach Falls, a local natural wonder. Once there, they find it is everything that has been said about it and more.

A boy appears and hands Watson a note, saying that there is a sick Englishwoman back at the hotel who wants an English doctor. Holmes realizes at once, although he does not say so, that it is a hoax. Watson goes to see about the patient, leaving Holmes alone.

When he reaches the Englischer Hof, the innkeeper has no idea about any sick Englishwoman. Realizing at last what has happened, Watson rushes back to Reichenbach Falls only to find no-one there, although he does see two sets of footprints going out onto the muddy dead-end path, but none coming back. Towards the end of the path, there are also signs that a violent struggle has taken place. It is all too clear. Holmes and Moriarty have both died, falling to their deaths down the gorge whilst locked in mortal combat. Dr Watson returns to England with sorrow in his heart.


Conan Doyle meant to stop writing about his famous detective with this short story, but pressure from his fans eventually convinced him to bring the character back. There were enough holes in eyewitness accounts to allow Conan Doyle to plausibly resurrect Holmes, and during his three-year “death”, only the few free, surviving members of Moriarty’s organization, and Holmes’s brother Mycroft (who appears briefly in this story) know that Sherlock Holmes is still alive, actually having won the struggle at Reichenbach Falls, sending Moriarty to his doom, but nearly meeting his own at Moriarty’s henchmen’s hands.

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