In December, 1893, in the British magazine The Strand and the American magazine McClure’s, readers were shocked to see Dr. Watson’s melancholy account of the death of Holmes, who, according to Watson, was murdered two years earlier by Professor Moriarty, the Napoleon of crime. In writing “The Adventure of the Final Problem” and by introducing a new character of mythic proportions in Moriarty, however, Doyle probably effectively ensured that public pressure for more tales would increase rather than diminish.
“The Adventure of the Final Problem” is a tale not of detection but of rivalry and pursuit. Holmes comes to Watson’s home in the night, when by good fortune Mrs. Watson is away on a visit and Watson is free to travel with Holmes to the Continent to escape Moriarty. Moriarty is one of the first great leaders of organized crime in fiction. Doyle presents him as in every way Holmes’s equal, except that Moriarty has inherited criminal tendencies that have made him diabolical. Moriarty has organized a crime network that is like a giant spider’s web, with the professor as the spider at its center: “He is the organizer of half that is evil and of nearly all that is undetected in this great city.” To counter the professor’s web, Holmes has helped the police to construct a net in which those in Moriarty’s gang, including the great spider himself, will be caught. He has not, however, been able to carry out this project...
(The entire section is 596 words.)