Harper Perennial (2015)
Kindle edition: $12.49
by Larry Jung
What a good job Anthony Horowitz has done with his book MORIARTY. The book works as a Sherlock Holmes pastiche and as a standalone mystery and whodunit. Horowitz has captured the world of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson and their London of 1891. This is Horowitz’s second book set in this world. (THE HOUSE OF SILK was the first.)
Though neither Holmes or Watson appear, Horowitz’s genius as a storyteller keeps their spirit ever present in the story while not being tied down to these two characters. How? As a veteran screenwriter, Horowitz employs the well-used TV technique called a spin-off. For example, the spin-off TV show promotes a secondary character from an earlier show to be the star. The character and his story share the fictional world and even characters with the earlier show. In MORIARTY, Horowitz has based the story on Holmes’s arch nemesis Professor Moriarty. The man Sherlock Holmes called the Napoleon of Crime.
The story starts with Sherlock Holmes’s and Professor Moriarty’s final tragic confrontation above the Reichenbach Falls (as told in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Final Problem”) and ends before the killing of the Honorable Ronald Adair (“The Empty House” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle). Dr. Watson’s account tells how the two most famous men in the world of English crime met their deaths. In MORIARTY, Fredrick Chase, a Pinkerton agent from America, narrates his adventures tracking down a mysterious and powerful American criminal mastermind named Clarence Devereux. Before the events at the Reichenbach Falls, Devereux had set up a secret meeting with Moriarty. Chase and his superiors fear an alliance of the two criminal masterminds will create an international super criminal organization.
Fredrick Chase arrives at Meiringen, Switzerland, only to find Moriarty dead. It looks like Chase has reached a dead end, but fortunately he meets Scotland Yard Inspector Athelney Jones. What develops is a partnership with Chase as the “Dr. Watson” and Athelney Jones as “Sherlock Holmes.” Like Holmes, Jones had developed his deductive skills to an astonishing degree. He dazzles Chase when they first meet with deductions about Chase worthy of Holmes himself. The trail turns hot when Jones deciphers a coded message between Devereux and Moriarty arranging a secret meeting in London between the two criminal masterminds.
The hunting ground is London, a place Anthony Horowitz knows and loves. He takes the reader from London’s seedy underground, literally into its subway system, to the elegant residence of the American Ambassador. The reader and Chase are strangers in a strange land. There is much to experience, to marvel at, and to fear. You can “hear” the clopping of horses and the rattling of hansom cabs on cobble stone streets.
There are plenty of allusions to satisfy fans of the Sherlock Holmes stories. But no knowledge of the Sherlock Holmes stories and characters is needed by the reader. The author weaves in all the background and topical information that the reader needs to understand and enjoy the story. For example, Chase summarizes the events at Rheinenbach Falls for readers who have never read any of the Holmes tales.
Anthony Horowitz has skillfully blended a whodunit that evokes 1891 London with a fast-paced story to satisfy 21st Century readers. Red herrings abound, no one can be trusted, and there are bluffs and double-bluffs. He does a masterful job of misdirecting the reader, but never cheating. I highly recommend MORIARTY to fans of English whodunits.
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