Review: Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz

Ugh... I had such good intentions to blog consistantly when the new year started. Then the flu hit my house and all good intentions went straight out the window. This was originally supposed to be a tour stop last Thursday, but I was too busy shivering uncontrollably underneath a pile of blankets. I apologize to Anthony Horowitz and the tour hosts for bailing, but I appreciate them letting me wallow in my illness.

Anthony Horowitz

Released December 9, 2014
304 pages
Mystery / Victorian

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Internationally bestselling author Anthony Horowitz's nail-biting new novel plunges us back into the dark and complex world of Detective Sherlock Holmes and Professor James Moriarty--dubbed "the Napoleon of crime"--in the aftermath of their fateful struggle at the Reichenbach Falls.

Days after Holmes and Moriarty disappear into the waterfall's churning depths, Frederick Chase, a senior investigator at New York's infamous Pinkerton Detective Agency, arrives in Switzerland. Chase brings with him a dire warning: Moriarty's death has left a convenient vacancy in London's criminal underworld. There is no shortage of candidates to take his place--including one particularly fiendish criminal mastermind.

Chase is assisted by Inspector Athelney Jones, a Scotland Yard detective and devoted student of Holmes's methods of deduction, whom Conan Doyle introduced in The Sign of Four. The two men join forces and fight their way through the sinuous streets of Victorian London--from the elegant squares of Mayfair to the shadowy wharfs and alleyways of the 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.

Riveting and deeply atmospheric, Moriarty is the first Sherlock Holmes novel sanctioned by the author's estate since Horowitz's House of Silk. This tale of murder and menace breathes life into Holmes's fascinating world, again proving that once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.

Moriarty is a bit outside my wheelhouse, at least in every sense other than the very tangent connection to Sherlock Holmes canon. And even that isn’t a subject I’m very familiar with the classic version. Despite that, I was interested in reading Anthony Horowitz’s mystery, which was named after Holmes’ nemesis and was supposed to have some ties to the original canon post-Reichenbach Falls.

Considering it’s be many, many years since the original Sherlock Holmes canon was published, it seems a bit silly to provide a SPOILER WARNING for “The Reichenbach Fall”.

Moriarty picks up soon after the events that lead to the presumed death of Professor Moriarty and Sherlock Holmes in “The Reichenbach Fall”. The narrator, a Pinkerton detective named Frederick Chase, was hunting down Moriarty in an attempt to get his hands on a note given to the mastermind from a bigwig American criminal seeking to move into British territory. When Chase arrives at the falls, he meets Inspector Athelney Jones from Scotland Yard, who is there to conduct his own investigation. Soon the two are traveling back to England to hunt down an American crime lord, whose violent tendencies are starting to create a bloodbath in the streets of London.

It’s a pretty straight forward mystery with Chase and Jones using Sherlockian-type logic and disguises along the way. The added disparity between the bloody ways of the American mob and the more “civilized” ways of the British criminal element makes for a great study on manners and culture during this Victorian time period.

The entire journey is told through Chase’s not-quiet-so-reliable view point in a manner similar to Doctor Watson’s accounts of Sherlock Holmes’ adventures. Horowitz sets them up as a second rate Holmes/Watson team up now that the original is no longer around. Other than the feel of the story and the regular mention of the dynamic detective duo, the tie in to the original Sherlock Holmes stories is thin at best.

A twist towards the end throws the entire narrative on its head and made the entire thing far more interesting. It almost made me flip back to the beginning and start all over again with a fresh pair of eyes. Still it was a clever turn that in my flu-driven haze I didn’t see forthcoming and it made the entire book far more interesting than the run of the mill mystery it started as.

Moriarty is a fun little mystery novel with a little bit of a nostalgic Sherlockian tone to it. The Victorian setting and clash between American and British thugs is an interesting twist on the usual murder mystery. Horowitz clearly had fun creating the Pinkerton detective Chase as his every-man narrator and following his exploits in London was enjoyable.