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My Potential Patients: Origins, Detection, and Transference in - page 27 / 69





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Cohen 24

"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 sits

motionless, like a spider in the center of its web, but that web has a thousand

radiations, and he knows well every quiver of each of them." (491)

At last, Holmes feels, he has the chance to capture Moriarty, having "woven my net

round him until now it is all ready to close" (492). Indeed, if it "could be written,"

the mere prelude to the great denouement about to unfold would be "the most brilliant

bit of thrust-and-parry work in the history of detection" (492).

If this has been and will be Holmes' finest hour, it is also his most paranoid:

excluding two glimpses from afar of a tall figure (497-498 and



encounters Moriarty solely through Holmes' verbal and written accounts. There is no

evidence outside of Holmes' authority that Moriarty exists, or if he does, that he is

anything more than a math teacher at a military school (495). Nor is there any proof

that Moriarty's

(491) are trying to kill Holmes with airguns

speeding carriages, bricks, clubs

and falling boulders (501). And since Holmes


  • (489)


    • (49.9


and Moriarty presumably tumble into the violent Reichenbach Falls, the bodies will

never be found and the story never substantiated (505). In short, it remains

ambiguous whether Holmes dies at the culmination of an epic contest with villainy or

is seduced by his own paranoid delusions, commits suicide, and misleads a gullible

Watson into believing


"The Final Problem" in question, then, is really a

Conveniently, it is also undecidable whether Holmes is really dead. After killing him off in "The

Final Problem" (1894)and publishing the retrospective


of the

Bnskewilles (1902),Conan

Doyle revives him in "The Adventure of the Empty House" (1905). Holmes explains to Watson here that he threw Moriarty from the falls, faked his own death, and went into hiding to avoid retaliation by

Moriarty's agents



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