When last we heard of Sherlock Holmes, he had plummeted from Reichenbach Falls along with the evil Professor Moriarty.
But after years of fans badgering him to bring Holmes back, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle finally relented in "The Return of Sherlock Holmes." The stories in here aren't quite as gripping as the previous collections, but there's still plenty of striking, mind-bending mysteries for the legendary detective to unwind.
A few years after Holmes' death, Watson has settled into a routine as a regular doctor, although he becomes interested in the locked-room murder of the Honourable Ronald Adair. But then a strange old man comes into Watson's office, and reveals himself to be none other than Sherlock Holmes. Watson promptly faints from the shock.
But when he wakes up, Holmes reveals that he has been traveling the world and avoiding Moriarty's equally nasty confederates. And before he can resume normal life at Baker Street, he and Watson must catch the last of these evil men -- which may be connected to Adair's death.
After that, Holmes and Watson fall back into solving cases: a young man who is accused of murdering his strangely friendly client; a string of stick figures, a music teacher followed by a cyclist, a boy kidnapped from his school, a harpoon impalement, blackmail and high society scandal, shattered Napoleonic busts, stolen exams, a Russian lady, a rugby player's disappearance, a brutal murder that isn't what it seems, and a missing document that could lead to a massive war.
"The Return of Sherlock Holmes" occasionally feels a little unenthusiastic, probably because Doyle had really intended to kill off Holmes because he wanted to focus on "important" novels. Fortunately, even lesser Holmes mysteries are still brilliant -- there are twisted crimes, malevolent schemers, and some puzzles that only Holmes can unravel.
And as usual, Doyle crafts two kinds of crimes/mysteries -- the ones that are ultra-simple but turn out to have hidden kinks, and the ones that seem impossible to solve but are actually shockingly simple. But things don't always end in the same way ("The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton" ends in a really shocking manner), and the culprits aren't always dealt with in the same way.
It's also really fun to see Watson and Holmes working together again, especially after Holmes makes such a dramatic, energetic reentry in the very first story. And it's very cute to see Watson pass out because he's so shocked and thrilled that Holmes is alive. The characters seem even faster friends, especially when it's revealed that Watson has gotten Holmes off of cocaine (which was still used medicinally at the time).
"Return of Sherlock Holmes" suffers from a few patches of unenthusiastic writing, but Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's mysteries are still brilliant brain-benders. The Great Detective is back.