I'd never read this collection before, and I'm happy to say I liked this one about as much as Adventures (which is to say, among favourite Holmes').
There is this sense of deep friendship that permeates it and also growth. Holmes has changed as time passed, taking more care of what he divulges once he solves the mystery, he's more... empathetic I guess. Oh, and he has stopped doing drugs.
It might be that I was primed by the first story. I felt angry at the detective for concealing his continuing living from Watson, even as I grasped his pragmatism, but I reached dismay when I realized Watson was now a widower. Holy shit, the man had to have had some terrible three years there.
But whatever I though of Holmes, I could read in Watson's frame his care, and maybe the same tether that saved him in A Study in Scarlet. And if I got fanciful, I might imagine Watson's bereavement is recent, and Sherlock picked a good time to show himself.
Because those are some long years of friendship folks (my maths say 16 from A Study to Abbey Grange), and the bits where Watson points to them being middle aged men have their bittersweet culmination in the mention on the final story of Holmes having retired.
And hell, I'm feeling like bumping Memoirs' stars now.