Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz – After reading The House of Silk I was anticipating another Holmes mystery even though in The House of Silk it was stated by Watson to be the last of the series. My anticipation was unfounded. Holmes makes but a brief appearance Moriarty. Instead, Horowitz begins by delving into what really happened at Reichenbach Falls.
An American Pinkerton agent, Frederick Chase, has traveled to England seeking to find Professor Moriarty who has been invited to meet with a great American villain. Learning on his arrival that Moriarty has died in the struggle with Holmes at the Reichenbach Falls he rushes to Switzerland to see if there is any trace of the letter to Moriarty.
At the Swiss police station he meets Inspector Athelney Jones of Scotland Yard. The British policeman has come to investigate what happened and determine if the body is that of Moriarty. The circumstantial evidence leads them to believe it is Moriarty but they cannot be sure it is the great master criminal.
Jones is a wonderful character. Having been shown as lacking in deductive skills by Holmes he has diligently studied the techniques of Holmes and become a great observer. His ability to observe and deduce rivals Holmes.
Physically they are far different. Horowitz describes Jones:
… as he moved inside I saw that he was about the same age as me, perhaps a little younger, with dark-coloured hair lying flat on his forehead and soft grey eyes that questioned everything. There was a sort of seriousness about him, and when he stepped into a room, you had to stop and take notice. He was wearing a brown lounge suit with a pale overcoat, which was unbuttoned and hung loosely from his shoulders It was evident that he had recently been quite ill and had lost weight. I could see it in his clothes, which were a little too large for him, and in the pallor and pinched quality of his face. He carried a walking stick made of rosewood with an odd, complicated silver handle.
After finding and decoding a secret message to Moriarty, sewn into the suit of the drowning victim, they rush back to London seeking out the Café Royal, the location for the meeting of the criminal masterminds – Moriarty from London and Clarence Deveraux from America. Chase intends to impersonate Moriarty.
At the Café Royal there is a teenage messenger, Perry, who swiftly penetrates the impersonation and shows great dexterity with a knife.
Jones follows Perry to a fine English home, Bladeston House. Though he does not see Perry actually enter the home he is confident that it was the destination of the messenger. It turns out the house is being rented by Scotch Lavelle, an American criminal colleague of Deveraux.
Lavelle is unperturbed by the visit of the British police and Chase and their inquiries are turned aside. Frustrated they decide to return the next day to investigate further what is going on in Baldeston Hall. In the morning they are shocked to learn that Scotchy, his wife and servants have all been slain.
Great evil is about in England. Mass murder was, and is, much more common in America.
Chase is given the rare opportunity to attend a meeting of Scotland Yard inspectors planning how to investigate the murders. Chase is barely tolerated by most of the inspectors. (Most had little regard for the Holmes that continually showed them up.)
Ultimately, the investigation takes them inside the American embassy where the Ambassador is Robert T. Lincoln, the son of the assassinated President. Even in the 1890’s diplomatic immunity is a challenging issue.
Through the book Jones continues to dazzle with his deductive skills. I enjoyed the portrayal of the police inspector who would be the new Holmes.
Yet what I will remember best is the startling twist that occurs at the end of the week. While I am never surprised that I do not catch clues I was caught totally off-guard by the twist in Moriarty. It was dramatic, even melodramatic. I thought Jeffery Deaver was the modern master of the crime fiction twist though I sometimes thinks he has one or two or three twists too many in his plots for the Lincoln Rhyme series. Horowitz surpasses Deaver in the close of Moriarty
I consider it a better book than The House of Silk mainly because of Chase and Jones. The American Chase is a dogged and reliable hunter of criminals. Jones is clever and decisive. They are a formidable pair who are bold in their pursuit.
As with The House of Silk I had to work at times on suspension of my disbelief. Great criminal masterminds are almost as difficult to create as convincing grand conspiracies. Horowitz does well but not enough for me to go further than thinking it is a very good book. Moriarty is excellent reading entertainment.