Follow TV Tropes


Literature / The Seven-Per-Cent Solution

Go To

The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, published in 1974, is a novel-length Sherlock Holmes fic by Nicholas Meyer. It's essentially a rewrite of Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Final Problem" and "The Empty House", revealing that those stories (and the three-year "Great Hiatus" between them) were really a cover-up for Holmes' descent into drug addiction and recovery.

As the novel begins, Holmes approaches Watson about his heretofore unmentioned Arch-Enemy, Professor Moriarty. However, since even in canon Moriarty was just an excuse for Conan Doyle to try to Torch the Franchise and Run, Watson can't help but notice how unusual this sudden announcement is, especially given Holmes' apparent raving. This leads him to conclude that Moriarty (who, he discovers, is really nothing more than a mathematics professor) is being persecuted by Holmes as part of a delusional episode. With help from Holmes' brother Mycroft, Watson lures the detective to Vienna for treatment by a psychiatrist named Sigmund Freud, who then draws them into an adventure to help prevent World War I.


The 1976 film version, with a screenplay by Meyer, was produced and directed by Herbert Ross, and featured Alan Arkin (as Freud), Vanessa Redgrave (as Lola Devereaux), Robert Duvall (as Watson), Nicol Williamson (as Holmes) and Laurence Olivier (as Moriarty). It also featured Charles Gray as Mycroft, who would later reprise the role in the Granada series with Jeremy Brett.

Meyer wrote three sequels to the novel - 1976's The West End Horror (which has Holmes interact with the theatrical and literary community of Victorian London while trying to solve a series of murders), 1993's The Canary Trainer (in which he encounters a certain spectral presence while anonymously playing violin in Paris between the events of the other two books), and 2019's The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols, in which Holmes and Watson travel from London to Moscow in 1905 investigating an Ancient Conspiracy.


This work provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Villainy: Moriarty is on the receiving end of this. In the book, Moriarty is merely the person who informs Sherlock of his mother's affair and death at her husband's hands. In the film, Moriarty actually is Mrs. Holmes' lover, and Sherlock sees him flee the scene after Squire Holmes shoots his wife dead, right in front of Moriarty and Sherlock. In the book Freud and Watson do suspect that Moriarty was more involved and guilty than he lets on, due to Mycroft's hold over him.
  • All Psychology Is Freudian: Justified. Since this takes place in the 1800s, Freud is still working on his theories and Jung hasn't come into style yet.
  • Always Someone Better: Mycroft, of course.
  • Arch-Enemy: Subverted.
  • Avoiding the Great War: The ultimate aim of the Big Bad is to start a world war. When they put an end to the plan, Holmes notes that they have only delayed the war, not prevented it entirely (and he's proven to be correct when World War I occurs).
  • Been There, Shaped History: The second half of the book is devoted to the efforts of the main characters in preventing the early outbreak of World War I (instigated by major weapons companies).
  • Berserk Button: In the film adaptation, a drug-crazed Holmes angrily calls Watson an idiot, but Watson isn't fazed. Then Holmes calls him an "insufferable cripple", and Watson decks him with one punch. Later, a weakened and contrite Holmes humbly apologizes for his outburst. Watson, deeply moved, denies that the incident ever occurred.
  • Continuity Nod: Both the book and film include many references to other Holmes stories.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: The motivation in kidnapping the Rhode Island heiress.
  • A Deadly Affair: A case in Vienna is about this trope. Holmes is brought to Austria to meet budding psychologist Sigmund Freud, in an effort to treat Holmes for a cocaine addiction. There, Freud discovers that Holmes's mother was caught with a lover by his father, who murdered the pair for their infidelity. It was young Holmes's mathematics tutor, Professor Moriarty that delivered the horrible news to him. Thus, concludes Freud, Holmes developed his dogged justice-must-prevail ethic, and his vilifying Moriarty is a Shoot the Messenger coping mechanism.
  • Direct Line to the Author: According to the author's forward, Watson narrated the story to a secretary in an old age home in 1940. Meyer later found the tale in an attic and published it. In addition, Watson insisted that several of the stories that Doyle published were "forged drivel".
  • Drugs Are Bad: Until the mystery starts up, the whole thing is a Very Special Episode.
  • Epiphany Therapy: Averted. It takes months for Sherlock to slowly return to normal.
  • Food Slap: When Baron von Leinsdorf insults Dr. Freud for his Jewish ancestry and then-radical psychological theories in a sports club locker room, Watson throws a glass of water in his face and prepares to fist-fight him and his whole gang of cronies. Freud takes responsibility for his companion's actions, and the doctor and the Baron end up facing each other in a vigorous game of real tennis.
  • Freudian Excuse: It turns out that Sherlock's reason for distrusting women and throwing himself into his job and cocaine is that his mother had an affair, possibly with Moriarty.
  • Going Cold Turkey: Sherlock is forced into this (along with a hallucination or two in the film) once he arrives in Vienna.
  • Handicapped Badass: Watson is this, particularly in the film adaptation. While Freud attempts to revive Holmes from a hypnotic trance, Watson, in spite of his limp, leads a group of wild horses away from them. Later, during the train chase, he climbs along the engine to go to Holmes' aid.
  • Historical Character's Fictional Relative: In the film adaptation, Sigmund Freud is given a son. He had one daughther in real life, who was included in the book, but she threatened to sue if her image was used in the film (she had no power over uses of her father's image, however).
  • Hypno Pendulum: Holmes occasionally needs a touch of this from Freud to overcome his cravings for cocaine.
  • Intercontinuity Crossover: In the novel, Holmes and Watson run into Rudolf Rassendyll on the train as he heads back from Ruritania.
  • Noodle Incident. Watson mentions that the bloodhound Toby, in addition to finding Johnathan Small and his horrible companion, was most useful in tracking down an orangutang in the sewers of Marseilles.
  • Only the Knowledgable May Pass: At the start of the movie, a manic, paranoid Holmes only lets Watson into his apartment after the good doctor correctly identifies where Sherlock keeps his tobacco.note 
  • Out-of-Character Alert
  • Out-Gambitted: Watson and Mary realize that getting Holmes to Europe will require that they trick him. Unfortunately, Holmes only pretends to go along with the scheme, thinking that Watson has betrayed him to Moriarty until he actually meets Dr. Freud.
  • Plucky Girl: Fraulein Deveraux; After being forcibly re-addicted to cocaine, she escapes by breaking a glass window, cutting her bonds with the shards, and sliding down a metal pipe, and she faces the prospect of having to go through withdrawal again with a sad sigh. When Baron von Leinsdorf later "convinces" her to leave the asylum, she leaves a trail of flowers for Holmes and company to follow.
  • Sanity Slippage: Holmes for the first third of the book.
  • Sherlock Scan: Used by Holmes when he first meets Freud.
  • The Shrink: Freud is Type 3.
  • Smart Ball: After wasting hours trying to figure out how to fool Holmes, Watson and his wife realize that they have to call in an expert: Mycroft.
  • Staging an Intervention: Mycroft Holmes, Doctor Watson and Professor Moriarty arrange to lure Sherlock Holmes to Vienna, Austria in order to receive hypnosis treatment for Sherlock's cocaine addiction from psychologist Sigmund Freud.
  • Tough Love: Used by Watson and Freud during Holmes' therapy.
  • Very Special Episode
  • Wham Line: "My name is Sigmund Freud."

Alternative Title(s): The Seven Percent Solution


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: