Friday, December 12, 2014

"Holmes is dead and darkness falls" -- Moriarty, by Anthony Horowitz

Harper, 2014
304 pp

arc from the publisher - thank you!

The first word that came to my mind after finishing Moriarty was this: "clever." 

If you've read any of the original Sherlock Holmes stories, then you know from Watson's account  "The Final Problem" that  Holmes and his arch-rival Professor James Moriarty toppled over into the falls, marking the end of the world's greatest detective and the world's most sinister criminal.  You also know that it was just a clever ploy on the part of Holmes so that he could flush out Moriarty's remaining network of evildoers.  Back in London, though, the bad guys didn't know that part of the story, so you'd think they would be having a field day.  But they're not. Moriarty's death left a big vacuum just begging to be filled, and sadly for the criminals in town, the new crime boss is  even more ruthless than Moriarty ever was. The criminals in this book are far nastier than any Conan-Doyle has ever dreamed up; there is a no-holds-barred attitude in this story when portraying just how evil and downright sadistic this new criminal contingent actually can be. Sadism, murder, and torture are just a few of their erstwhile talents, and their reputation has already spread quickly through the streets of  London and the criminal underworld as well. 

Our narrator offers his name right away. He is Frederick Chase, a senior investigator with the Pinkerton Detective Agency out of New York. Chase was actually at Reichenbach five days after things went down.  After taking the reader quickly through the main events of the story, he then says that the story that he "must" tell begins on the fifth day after the deaths of Holmes and Moriarty.  It is on that day that a man has been fished out of  Reichenbach Brook, and the day that Chase first meets Scotland Yard Inspector Athelney Jones. Jones is a major devotee of Sherlock Holmes and has been since he helped the great detective with events in the story that came to be known as "The Sign of Four," and before Chase could say anything, Jones offers a brief demonstration of the deductive powers he's learned by studying Holmes' methods.  He deduces that Chase is a Pinkerton's agent and that only one week earlier, he'd "set off for England in the hope of tracking down Professor James Moriarty."  Needless to say, this demonstration and the fact that Chase needs British police assistance in his task is the start of a friendship as well as a cooperative effort -- with no Holmes to safeguard the streets of London, the two find themselves up against a group of criminals now under the aegis of their new and cruel  master. 

The character of Jones, who had been portrayed by Watson as rather incompetent in "The Sign of Four," and again as a"laughing stock" in "The Adventure of the Six Napoleons," is by far the most interesting of them all here.  While recuperating from a case of rickets after his work in that case, he had "dedicated the year of his hiatus to the betterment of his career as a detective." He had been "beaten" by Holmes twice, and so vowed to "make himself the equal of the world's most famous consulting detective." His home office is more like a shrine, where he's "read everything that Mr. Holmes has written," and has "studied his methods and replicated his experiments,"  making "Sherlock Holmes the very paradigm of his own life."  According to Jones' wife, who doesn't have the same feelings for Holmes, Jones actually believes that he is Holmes' "equal."  So obviously, he has something to prove here, and it made me wonder if perhaps he's gone a little off the rails mentally. He literally becomes a walking pastiche of the great detective, a trait that ultimately will do him little in the way of favors. 

 Given that the man wants to be Holmes, it's no surprise whatsoever that  there are a number of Holmesian tropes in play here, and it's also not surprising that the author has fun with them.   There's one particular scene that I quite liked and thought worked very well.  All of the detectives who had ever worked with Holmes come together in one room for a meeting, some praising Holmes while lamenting his demise; others who are ready to "embrace his going as an opportunity" for the detectives to "achieve results" on their "own two feet." What all agree on, though, is that at least they won't find themselves "caricatured" by Watson any more.  

As good as those scenes are, and surprising as some parts may be, it takes a while for this story to get off the ground actionwise since the reader is being introduced to the main players and we get a replay of Reichenbach Falls.  Then there are some moments of tedious description here and there (do we really need to know what was in the stew?) and sometimes the story just sort of plods along with exposition.   However, if you're not a Holmes purist looking for any sort of Conan-Doyle style of perfection,  Moriarty turns out to be a fun - not great - just fun read with a surprising scene toward the end leading to a finish that I won't divulge. I've seen some reviews that say it was contrived -- and maybe there's something to that, but hey - it was still a fun book. 

I read this book through the generosity of the publisher and through TLC book tours, and you can follow what others have to say as it makes its way through several readers by clicking here.  

1 comment:

  1. I love Holmes and I do enjoy a strictly fun read and this sounds like it would definitely be one!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.


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