Summary: Part II, Chapter VII: The Conclusion
Soon after Hope gives his full statement, Hope dies from his heart condition. Back at their flat, Holmes and Watson discuss the case, which Holmes calls simple. Watson expresses surprise, but according to Holmes, since the case presented the result, he only needed to work backward. He explains that at the house in Brixton, he determined several details: The men arrived in a cab; two men, one tall and the other well dressed, had entered the home; and the dead man had been forced to ingest poison. Holmes deduced that the murder arose from a personal motive, a fact corroborated by the wedding ring and the writing on the wall. Holmes’s study of the room confirmed the murderer’s height and other details.
Holmes explains that through the telegram he sent to the United States, he learned about Drebber’s police complaint about Hope as well as Hope’s trip to Europe. Holmes thus knew Hope was the murderer, so he employed the street urchins to find him. Watson, in awe of Holmes’s knowledge, encourages Holmes to publish the story, but Holmes shows him a newspaper article. As Holmes predicted, Gregson and Lestrade claimed credit for solving the case.
Analysis: Part II, Chapter VII
In the final chapter, science and art converge once again as Watson and Holmes discuss the case and Holmes shares more about his deductive reasoning skills. When Holmes describes his particular skill as being able to reason backwards, he is describing the ability to give meaning to an assortment of bare facts. While Holmes’s description is logical to the point of being cold, he also mentions that only a small percentage of people have this ability, hinting that there is something special about him that goes beyond process and hard science. In fact, explaining how something came to be is nothing less than the art of storytelling, and it is this art at which Holmes excels. But Holmes is not the novel’s only talented storyteller. Jefferson Hope makes a point to tell his story in the previous chapter so that he will not be seen as a common criminal and to give meaning to his actions. The importance of storytelling also recalls the fact that much of the novel is from the diary of Dr. John Watson.
One bit of mystery about Holmes throughout the narrative is the question of why Holmes does what he does, and this chapter provides the answer. It cannot be for money, as Holmes is not a rich man and does not endeavor to become one. It cannot be for fame, as he regularly points out that Lestrade and Gregson will get all the credit anyway. It cannot even be as a service to the public because if a case isn’t interesting enough, Holmes won’t take it. Instead, Holmes creates stories from bare facts to make sense of the world and to give it meaning, or as Jefferson Hope might say, to prove that we are not “ruled by chance.”