All the world is reading Dr. John Watson's blog about his adventures with Sherlock Holmes, stunned at the doctor's revelation that the great detective couldn't care less whether the Earth goes around the sun or vice versa.
But then a massive explosion rocks central London, heralding a deadly game of wits between a criminal mastermind and his archrival, Sherlock. Here's how the game works: an innocent hostage gets strapped with explosives, then is forced to call Sherlock and read a message posing a mystery for the detective to solve. As the match proceeds, Sherlock is given increasingly less time to crack the case before the detonator is triggered. The motive? "I'm bored," says the bomber, adding, "we were made for each other, Sherlock!"
The first challenge involves a boy who drowned under suspicious circumstances twenty years earlier. The only clue Sherlock has is the boy's pair of sneakers. Next, he is faced with an abandoned car splattered with a missing man's blood. Then, it's a TV makeover celebrity who had a gardening "accident." And how about a corpse by the Thames that is somehow connected to a recently rediscovered Vermeer painting? Solve that one before the count of ten, Sherlock!
Like a good chess match, the game is not without its setbacks for both sides. Or its gripping end game, which brings together a larger-than-life assassin and a seemingly unrelated case of stolen missile plans. Consulting detective, meet consulting criminal.
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Warning: Contains significant plot spoilers
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Warning: Contains significant plot spoilers
Sherlock is lamenting that the world has become insufferably "quiet, calm, and peaceful," when an explosion rocks Baker Street. It's the calling card of an anonymous criminal mastermind, eager to match wits with the great detective. The explosion leads police to a strongbox with a letter addressed to Sherlock. Inside is a cell phone that will serve as his link to the bomber in a series of increasingly challenging cases.
The "great game" works as follows: The special phone transmits a photo showing a location where Sherlock can find evidence of a crime. Next, Sherlock gets a call from a hostage, strapped with explosives, who reads a message from the bomber that includes a deadline. If the sleuth doesn't solve the case within the time limit, kaboom!
Assisted by Dr. Watson, the master of deduction tackles case number one, which must be cracked in twelve hours. All there is to go on in is a pair of boy's sneakers. But it doesn't take Sherlock long to recognize that these shoes are connected to a suspicious drowning death two decades earlier. His conclusion after a microscopic examination of the footwear: deliberate poisoning by botulism. Case closed in nine hours!
Case number two involves an abandoned car with ghastly bloodstains. It's odd that there is exactly a pint of blood splattered about. Further, the owner of the firm that rented the car has obviously (to Sherlock) just returned from Colombia. Conclusion: a missing banker faked his own death and then disappeared abroad to collect the life insurance, all in collusion with his wife and the rental car firm owner. "I'm on fire!" declares the sleuth after beating the eight-hour deadline.
But things do not turn out so well in the third case. Sherlock solves it by deducing that a TV celebrity died of a Botox overdose administered by her houseboy. But after the detective announces his solution, the hostage calls and blurts out a few details about the mastermind ... and the bomb goes off.
Despondent but with his deductive powers in overdrive, Sherlock chews up case number four, which takes him to the banks of the Thames where a corpse lies beached. Within minutes he announces that the killer was a gigantic hit man called the Golem and that the body shows that a recently identified Vermeer painting is fake. But the bomber wants proof that the Vermeer is not genuine and gives Sherlock until the count of ten to make his case; otherwise a child hostage gets blown up. At the last second, the sleuth notices an anachronistic supernova in the painting. Saved!
After the "Vermeer" dealer confesses that the perpetrator behind this case — and presumably the others — is the notorious criminal mastermind Moriarty, Sherlock arranges a meeting with his archenemy. The bait is a flash drive with stolen missile plans recovered in an errand for Sherlock's spy brother, Mycroft. At the appointed place, Watson unexpectedly shows up. Is he, in fact, Moriarty?! Apparently not, because he's been strapped with explosives and now reads a message from the mastermind, who then appears.
It turns out that Moriarty is the IT guy who's been dating Molly, the pathologist at St. Bart's Hospital. Off hours, he is the world's foremost consulting criminal. "I've given you just a teensy glimpse of what I've got going on out there in the big bad world," he tells Sherlock. But their meeting is a cliffhanging standoff, since Sherlock is aiming a pistol at Moriarty, Moriarty's unseen accomplice is aiming a rifle at Sherlock, and Watson's discarded suicide belt lies primed for detonation...