Summary (Amazon): 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.
A riveting, deeply atmospheric tale of murder and menace from one of the only writers to earn the seal of approval from Conan Doyle’s estate, Moriarty breathes life into Holmes’s dark and fascinating world.
My Review (Spoilers!!)
Executive Summary: uninspired
Maybe it’s just me, but when you know a novel is sanctioned by the Conan Doyle estate, and the summary states that the book is about what happened to “Sherlock Holmes and his arch nemesis Professor Moriarty”, you expect Sherlock Holmes to at least appear in the book. Spoiler, he doesn’t.
The book begins at Reichenbach Falls after “The Final Problem” (a short story by Doyle) where both Moriarty and Holmes argue and fall to their deaths.
Mr. Chase, the narrator, arrives in Switzerland to examine the body that was pulled out of the falls which has been identified as James Moriarty. Frederick Chase is American from Pinkerton’s Detective Agency, and he wants to examine the body to find a correspondence between an American criminal and Moriarty. In the morgue, he meets Scotland Yard detective, Athelney Jones. Jones is a cheap replica of Sherlock Holmes, using catch phrases such as “elementary” and costumes and powers of observation. (I was worried that it was going to come out later in the book that Jones was actually Holmes, and I would have thrown the book away at that point to spare others from reading it. However, that didn’t happen.) The two find a note that no one else found in Moriarty’s jacket lining which is presumably the note Chase is looking for, and also is in code.
Jones decodes the note and then meets with Chase to initiate a partnership. Chase tells Jones about Clarence Devereux, the American criminal mastermind who sent the letter to Moriarty. Chase is unsure that Devereux is his real name, as he has never seen the man. He is familiar with some of Devereux’s associates–brothers Edgar and Leland Mortlake and Scotchy Lavelle. Due to the work of one of his investigators (who was killed in duty), Jonathan Pilgrim, Chase believes all of these men to be in London to spread their crime ring across the pond initially to team up with Moriarty, and now to take his place.
The decoded note says “Professor Moriarty, meet me at the Cafe Royal, London. One o’clock, May the twelfth. Wear a red tulip.” They concoct a plan. Jones will make a statement saying that he believes Moriarty to still be alive, and Chase will go to the Cafe wearing a red tulip to see what happens. When he does, a boy arrives, but when Chase cannot answer his question of how many ravens flew out of the Tower of London, the boy threatens Chase and leaves with Jones on his tail.
Jones has followed the boy to Bladeston House that is currently being rented by Scotchy Lavelle, so Jones and Chase interrogate Lavelle at the house who assures them he has never seen the boy in question, nor does he know Clarence Devereux. The two leave only to return the following morning to the scene of a gruesome murder–everyone in the house had been drugged and killed in their sleep. They investigate Lavelle’s study and find a sheet in his diary which says “HORNER 13”. They are unsure what it means but it seems important. As Jones and Chase are leaving the house, Edgar Mortlake appears, and they question him too. He claims not to know what has happened there, and he also claims to not know who Devereux is.
Chase goes with Jones to meet with the other Scotland Yard detectives about the attack, and they decide to raid the Bostonian to attempt to locate Devereux. They find the Mortlake brothers there, unsurprisingly, but they don’t provide any information. The only thing of value that they obtain is an advertising card for Horner’s hair tonic, and they set on their way to speak to Albert Horner.
The barber, who has taken over the business recently for Horner, does not appear to know any of the people Chase and Jones are interested in. They meet up again at Scotland Yard later that day, and Chase sees Jones awaiting him, but he also sees the boy from earlier. The boy got into a brougham with an older man and heads off. Chase follows until almost struck by a bus, and as they are walking back to the station, they hear an explosion. A package brought by a messenger boy was left outside Jones’s office by the telegraph room. A few people died, and certainly had Jones been at his desk, he would have also. Chase agrees to not discuss the matter when he goes to Jones’s house for dinner that evening.
At dinner, Jones’s wife forces a situation where she is alone with Chase so that she can get real information. He tells her that the explosion was indeed very near Jones’s office, and she tells Chase that her husband became obsessed with Sherlock Holmes after Watson portrayed him in an unflattering light after their two cases together. Elspeth wants Chase to look after and protect her husband during this investigation, and he agrees.
Jones and Chase reconvene the following day, and Jones has tracked down the driver of the brougham (apparently these were fairly rare). The driver picked up the tall 40 or 50 year old passenger at the Strand and then took him to Whitehall to wait for the boy and then they headed to 123 Victoria Street–the location of the legation of the USA. Jones is not permitted to go inside as they don’t have enough evidence. However, they remember that there was an invitation to a party there in Lavelle’s things, so they decide to go as the party is the next evening.
They attend the party and meet Robert Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln’s son. This serves no other purpose, but I thought it was an interest inclusion. They try to avoid notice, however, they must be introduced to all the hosts during which time, they inquire about Devereux to no avail before their cover is blown by the Mortlake brothers who insist that they get arrested. The official comes to take them into a private room, and they discover that the shy, unremarkable man is actually…Clarence Devereux! However, they cannot arrest him, but they do leave of their own volition. However, Devereux still makes an official complaint to Scotland Yard about Jones, so he has a limited time before he will be on probation.
Working quickly to devise a plan to draw out Devereux, the two come up with a fairly convoluted scheme. They return to the barber’s. It turns out that the barber is being used by Devereux to tunnel under the street into the bank to steal from the safe deposit boxes. They use this plan to set a trap for the Mortlake brothers and Devereux. After the robbery was announced in the papers, Edgar Mortlake comes to collect for Devereux. Chase and Jones are waiting, but he gets away. They go to the Bostonian to question his brother Mortlake, and as Chase is escorting him out, he is killed by a poison dart.
In retribution, Jones’s daughter is kidnapped from a playground. Eventually Jones (and Chase) are summoned to meet the kidnappers at Dead Man’s Walk (an old cemetery which sounds quite macabre). They arrive and find Edgar Mortlake alive despite his daring jump previously. Jones’s daughter is returned but Jones and Chase are captured and taken to a meat freezer for torture and questioning. Devereux is also there. Jones manages to shoot Mortlake with the single bullet hidden in his cane, and during the chaos, Jones and Chase manage to get away with some help of some extraordinary circumstances including the power going out and an appearance by the strange recurring boy.
They return to the American legation to arrest Devereux, finding the book where the ransom note page was removed, having just cause. Devereux and his severe agoraphobia are loaded into a closed wagon, and Jones and Chase follow in a different vehicle. Suddenly the boy again appears and kills a police officer in the procession. Jones takes out a hidden gun to pick off the boy, when Chase takes out his own gun and shoots Jones in the head.
Chase is Moriarty. He was annoyed that Devereux moved into his territory so he faked his own death so that he could go through and pick off all of Devereux’s crew. The book proceeds to rehash the entire story showing how Moriarty fooled everyone.
Verdict: 3 Stars
Bah. I wanted to like this SO much more. But there were parts in the middle that dragged, and the ending was in no way a surprise. There were way too many clues. Everyone died after they had been visited by Chase & Jones. The random appearance of the boy during the escape from the meat cellar. The fact that Jones’s wife didn’t trust Chase. I wasn’t fooled, and I wasn’t emotional about it. I liked Jones (and apparently so did Chase), but he was still no Sherlock Holmes. When does the next season of Sherlock start? It’s one of the rare occasions that a TV show far exceeds a book.