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The Last Sherlock Holmes novel is a book written by Michael Dibdin and tells the last tale of Sherlock Holmes. The book was written in the late Seventies and tells the encounter between Sherlock Holmes and Jack the Ripper.
For those who don't know, Sherlock Holmes was a creation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and is a consulting detective in the last two decades of the 19th century, he uses the powers of deduction and reasoning to solve the cases. His ever present colleague and narrator is Dr. James Watson who follows Holmes on his cases, the stories are written by Watson in the form of a casebook many years after the events. Holmes famously lives on 221b Baker Street and has entered into the annals of literary greats.
This novel begins with the unsealing of a bank box dated 1976, fifty years after the death of Dr. Watson in 1926. The doctor had set up the deeds of the box with the bank to be opened on the exact fifty year anniversary of his death; inside the box are the notes from Watson covering Holmes' last case. The notes spark intense speculation dn the novel begins with the contents being questioned by one of the bank employees present at the first reading.
The novel then propels us back in time to 1888 and the Autumn of Terror visited on the streets of Whitechapel during the Jack the Ripper atrocities. The writer weaves a way in which Holmes and Watson are real people set in those times by introducing them alongside Arthur Conan Doyle and having Holmes cast scorn on ACD's writing abilities. From this point on fact and fiction are interweaved, the story of the killings which are fact are weaved with the characteristics and persona's of Holmes, Watson, Inspector Lestrade, Professor Moriarty etc who are of course fictional.
The book is always set in Watson's voice, we visit the twin worlds of the fictional Holmes and the real life Whitechapel in the same even mannered voice of the middle aged Doctor. The book starts just after the first murder but doesn't really mention the killings until about a third the way through the novel. When Lestrade is introduced as the policeman who invites Holmes into the case, the book starts to focus on the real life events and places the fictional characters in the investigation.
From this point on we are given the chance to investigate the murders as though they were being investigated by Holmes, the cold calculating analysis, the brilliant deductions and poignant comments. The author was either a fan of the case or had done a huge amount of reading around the subject before writing a fictional account of a real set of murders. Added together the novel analysis the cases with almost modern pathological techniques and gives a very detailed inspection of the murders as was known in the late Seventies. The book picks apart the cases and by placing Holmes in the middle of investigation gave the author freedom to express some of the theories over who was Jack the Ripper.
Finally the book comes to a conclusion and any fan of both the Ripper case and Holmes will be pleasantly engaged by the merging of the real with the fictional. There are influences from the casebook of Sherlock Holmes, the timelines of the murders and a final denouement where the murderer is revealed. All in all, the book is at its heart a scholarly dissection of the murders but keeps the pace of the novel up and gives the reader plenty to grab hold of and enjoy.