Guest Review: Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz

moriarty by anthony horowitzFormat read: paperback ARC
Formats available: ebook, hardcover, paperback, audiobook
Genre: Mystery
Series: Sherlock Holmes, #2
Length: 309 pages
Publisher: Harper
Date Released: December 9, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

The game is once again afoot in this thrilling mystery from the bestselling author of The House of Silk, sanctioned by the Conan Doyle estate, which explores what really happened when Sherlock Holmes and his arch nemesis Professor Moriarty tumbled to their doom at the Reichenbach Falls.

Internationally bestselling author Anthony Horowitz’s nail-biting new novel plunges us back into the dark and complex world of detective Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty—dubbed the Napoleon of crime” by Holmes—in the aftermath of their fateful struggle at the Reichenbach Falls.

Days after the encounter at the Swiss waterfall, Pinkerton detective agent Frederick Chase arrives in Europe from New York. Moriarty’s death has left an immediate, poisonous vacuum in the criminal underworld, and there is no shortage of candidates to take his place—including one particularly fiendish criminal mastermind.

Chase and Scotland Yard Inspector Athelney Jones, a devoted student of Holmes’s methods of investigation and deduction originally introduced by Conan Doyle in “The Sign of Four”, must forge a path through the darkest corners of England’s capital—from the elegant squares of Mayfair to the shadowy wharfs and alleyways of the London Docks—in pursuit of this sinister figure, a man much feared but seldom seen, who is determined to stake his claim as Moriarty’s successor.

Review by Galen:

Two sets of footsteps leading to the edge of a ledge over the abyss… none returning. This is an image that has haunted fans of the writings of John Watson (as transmitted by Arthur Conan Doyle) for over a century.

Conan Doyle had perhaps hoped to be rid of the responsibility of publishing the chronicles of England’s most famous consulting detective, but the reading public would not allow that. And of course, “The Adventure of the Empty House” revealed that Holmes did not tumble to his death in the Reichenbach Falls, but instead had more pressing matters to attend to.

house of silk by anthony horowitzBut what about Moriarty? The linchpin of a crime network does not simply vanish without consequences. In Anthony Horowitz’s return to Holmes pastiches (his first foray, The House of Silk, was reviewed by Marlene back in 2012), he explores the forces rushing to fill in the vacuum.

Escape Rating B: The book maintains a fast and engaging pace, more suspense than mystery, from the moment Pinkerton detective Frederick Chase arrives up to view the body of Moriarty to the end when the power vacuum gets resolved. Chase teams up with Scotland Yard detective Athelney Jones, who reacts to his run-in with Holmes during “The Sign of Four” by becoming obsessed with Holmes’ methods, to the detriment of his own skill as a detective.

The nature of the twist ending becomes apparent well before its big reveal, but that doesn’t significantly detract from the book. I found the portrayal of Jones to be particularly sympathetic: Holmes, who did have an arrogant streak, left collateral damage in his wake, and it is good to see that acknowledged.

For a Holmes pastiche that features neither Holmes nor Watson, Moriarty does an excellent job of fleshing out a view of Holmes’ nemesis as being truly worthy of that name — while demonstrating a degree of emotional depth that is unusual in a mystery and suspense novel.

This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews.
***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

The House of Silk

The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz is a new/old Sherlock Holmes story. And I’m an absolute sucker for Sherlock Holmes stories.

Why do I call it a new/old Holmes story? On the one hand, it is written in the style of the Conan Doyle canon. Watson is writing up one of Holmes’ cases. On very much the other hand, the case he is writing up is about a subject that proper Victorian gentlemen did not discuss. There are, after all, much worse things than prostitution.

So we come to the case of the House of Silk. This is purported to be a case that Watson is writing up very late in his own life, after Holmes has died in Sussex. It is written in the tone of a man reflecting back, and sometimes you can hear the nostalgia, and of knowledge of later times impinging on the then-present.  In “Watson’s” preface to the story, he states that the case was too shocking to appear in print and too close to the halls of power to appear during wartime. He purportedly left the manuscript with his private papers, with instructions to his solicitors to have the manuscript published in a century.

And so we have the adventures of The Man in the Flat Cap and The House of the Silk.

The story itself takes place in 1890, a year before that infamous affair at Reichenbach Falls. Watson is still married to his first wife, Mary Morstan that was, but she has just left to nurse one of her former charges through a bout of influenza, and Watson has taken up his bachelor quarters with Holmes at 221B Baker Street for the duration.

An art dealer named Edmund Carstairs engages Holmes (and by association, Watson) to investigate the man in the flat cap who is terrorizing him. It should be an open-and-shut case. Carstairs returned from America a year ago. While he was there, he agreed to sell four impressionist masterpieces to a collector in Boston. The sale would have made his gallery a fortune. The paintings arrived in the States, but, the four Turner paintings just happened to be caught in the middle of a train robbery that went horribly wrong, and were burned to ash. Insurance covered the loss, but the buyer in Boston decided to go after the robbers. The gang, known as the Flat Cap Gang, were killed by the Boston police. All except one. Carstairs believes that the one remaining member of the gang, Keelan O’Donaghue, has followed him to London and is now following him around, leaving messages and generally terrorizing him. The question is, “to what purpose?” Not to mention, “why wait a year to follow?”

Holmes is intrigued by those questions. He is on the trail of a case that is, as usual, more than it appears. But in the process of finding the man who is trailing Carstairs, Holmes employs his “Baker Street Irregulars”, the band of street orphans that he hires to watch out when he cannot be everywhere at once. A new boy, Ross, finds not just the man in the flat-cap, but something to his own advantage, or so he thinks. After he collects his guinea from Holmes, he tries a bit of blackmail of his own, and is not just killed for his trouble, but tortured first. And his body left for Holmes to find with a bit of white silk ribbon tied to wrist as a message.

Holmes takes the message to heart and the investigation takes a more personal turn. When Mycroft comes to 221B in person to warn Holmes off, the younger Holmes delves even deeper, because he knows he is on the trail of something that someone does not want him to find. And that’s when the situation becomes truly dangerous, possibly even for Sherlock Holmes.

Escape Rating B+:I enjoyed this visit with Holmes and Watson, but it didn’t quite fit for me. For one, I figured it out before the end. For another, the non-Conan Doyle version of Holmes that now lives in my mind is Laurie R. King’s, so any variant that has Holmes deceased, especially without Mary Russell, just sounds wrong to me. And the only time Watson survives Holmes is after Reichenbach, and we all know how that turned out.