"Nothing happens to me," Afghanistan war veteran Dr. John Watson tells his therapist. But that's before he moves into 221B Baker Street. In no time, the depressed doctor has joined his eccentric flat mate, Sherlock Holmes, in tackling a case of serial suicide.
Can suicide be a serial crime? It seem so, since it has already happened three times, with each victim disappearing under identical circumstance and later turning up dead with the same self-administered dose of poison. When a fourth victim is found, a woman dressed entirely in pink, Detective Inspector Lestrade gives up and calls his consulting detective: Sherlock.
With Watson lending his medical expertise, Sherlock uses his deductive powers to establish the pink lady's life history, based on clues such as the wear pattern on her wedding ring. Obviously murder, he concludes. And with that the game is on to find the killer, someone who can lurk unnoticed in the middle of a bustling city, snaring victims at will and convincing them to take their own lives.
Lestrade's staff warns Watson to avoid Sherlock, who they call "freak" and consider a psychopath ("I'm a high-functioning sociopath," Sherlock insists). But the doctor receives a more ominous signal from another source, a shadowy figure calling himself Sherlock's arch enemy, who attempts to entice Watson into turning against his new friend.
Meanwhile, the pink lady left an especially baffling clue: she scratched "Rache" into the floor where she died. The name Rachel? The German word for revenge? A coded message? To Sherlock the answer is elementary. Less clear is how the killer enticed his victims into self-destruction and whether the great detective will be lured to the same demise.
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Warning: Contains significant plot spoilers
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Warning: Contains significant plot spoilers
Dr. John Watson awakens from a nightmare about the Afghan war, where he has recently been wounded. Now on disability in London, he starts a blog and decides to cut expenses by sharing an apartment.
Meanwhile, London police are stymied by a wave of suicides. In three separate incidents, individuals took their own lives under identical circumstances. At a press conference, Detective Inspector Lestrade tries to reassure the public, but to no avail since someone keeps texting "wrong" to each of his comments to reporters. The mystery texter is none other than Sherlock Holmes, who smells an interesting case and, coincidentally, is looking for someone to split the rent at 221B Baker Street.
Duly teamed up, Sherlock and Watsons plunge into the investigation of the next suicide, which Lestrade hands over out of desperation. This time a woman dressed entirely in pink has taken her life, but not before scratching out "Rache" on the floor. Using his clairvoyant powers of observation, Sherlock discerns her life history based on tiny clues and realizes that two key pieces of evidence are missing: her pink suitcase and pink smartphone.
Unsure what he has gotten himself into, Watson is briefly abducted by someone who calls himself Sherlock's arch-enemy — an urbane, sinister man who asks Watson to choose sides. After rebuffing the stranger, Watson returns to 221B Baker Street and finds that Sherlock has recovered the suitcase, but not the phone. By texting the cell number with a clever message, Sherlock proves that the killer has the device. Later, he realizes that the pink lady planted the phone on her abductor and was in the process of leaving the password for police, when she expired. The password is "Rachel," the name of her stillborn daughter.
Using this code, Sherlock is able to locate the killer through the phone's GPS unit. Oddly, the perpetrator seems to be just outside on Baker Street. As Watson, Lestrade, and assorted police mill around the apartment, clueless, Sherlock goes downstairs and meets a cab driver holding a pink phone, who beckons him into his taxi. Intrigued, the detective gets in.
"I don't want to kill you, Mr. Holmes," says the cabbie. "I'm going to talk to you, and then you're going to kill yourself!" Based on his clothes, memorabilia, and shaving habits, Sherlock surmises that the deranged man is divorced, devoted to his kids, and has a terminal disease, which accounts for his unusual approach to serial killing.
Taking Sherlock to an empty building, the cabbie offers him a choice of two capsules. Only one has the fatal poison. As with the previous victims, Sherlock gets to select whichever capsule he likes; the cabbie takes the other. After surviving four such games, he attributes his winning streak to his genius for faking out his opponents.
"What if I don't choose either?" asks Sherlock. The cabbie pulls out a pistol and points it at the sleuth's head. But Sherlock knows a novelty cigarette lighter when he sees one! Still, the great detective feels compelled to play the game and is about to swallow his poison or placebo when the cabbie is suddenly shot through the chest by Watson, who has followed the GPS signal and fires from an adjoining building. As the cabbie dies, he blurts out that Sherlock's arch-enemy, Moriarty, is behind it all.
But is it the same arch-enemy who introduced himself earlier to Watson? Apparently not, for that suave stranger shows up and, in bickering with Sherlock about their childhood, reveals himself to be Sherlock's meddlesome brother, Mycroft.