My Friday Post: Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz

Book Beginnings Button

Every Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

This week I’m featuring Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz, one of my TBRs that I’ll be reading next.


The Reichenbach Falls

Does anyone really believe what happened at the Reichenbach Falls? A great many accounts have been written but it seems to me that all of them have left something to be desired – which is to say, the truth.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice.

30879-friday2b56These are the rules:

  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader. If you have to improvise, that is okay.
  3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
  4. Post it.
  5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.

Page 56:

‘It is a deliberate attempt to communicate something to Moriarty that will remain secret should it fall into the wrong hands.’
‘So there is a code!’
‘And you were able to crack it!’
‘Through trial and error, yes.’ Jones nodded. ‘I take no credit for it, mind. Where Holmes has gone, I have merely followed.’

Blurb (Goodreads)

Sherlock Holmes is dead.

Days after Holmes and his arch-enemy Moriarty fall to their doom at the Reichenbach Falls, Pinkerton agent Frederick Chase arrives in Europe from New York. The death of Moriarty has created a poisonous vacuum which has been swiftly filled by a fiendish new criminal mastermind who has risen to take his place.

Ably assisted by Inspector Athelney Jones of Scotland Yard, a devoted student of Holmes’s methods of investigation and deduction, Frederick Chase must forge a path through the darkest corners of the capital to shine light on this shadowy figure, a man much feared but seldom seen, a man determined to engulf London in a tide of murder and menace.


Anthony Horowitz is one of my favourite authors. This is his second Sherlock Holmes novel and I’m hoping, no I’m expecting it to be as good as his first, The House of Silk.

Years ago I read Arthur Conan Doyle’s short story The Final Problem, in which he meant to end Sherlock Holmes’ life as he wanted to write more literary works, but needless to say really, I have forgotten most of the details. 

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

The Devil’s Promise by David Stuart Davies

The full title of this book is The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Promise.

From the back cover:

The discovery of a corpse on a deserted beach is just the first in a series of mysterious and terrifying events that threaten Sherlock Holmes. While investigating the death, Holmes and Watson attract unwanted attention from the strange inhabitants of the nearby village, and are viciously attacked. Watson wakes to discover that months have passed and his friend is not the man he remembers. What has transpired during those lost days? And is it connected to the notorious “Devil’s Companion” whose descendants live nearby?

A book for RIP X, and one I had high hopes of when I read the Foreword by Mark Gatiss – an English actor, comedian, screenwriter and novelist, writing for Doctor Who and the co-creator of Sherlock. He wrote:

I think that Sherlock Holmes is imperishable, a brilliant British icon – indeed a worldwide icon. He represents the best of us. He is as clever as we would all like to be. He is surprising, capricious, slightly dangerous, strangely elegant, dashing, Byronic and the best and wisest man any of us will ever know.

I believe he lasts because we all want to be Sherlock Holmes and we all want to believe there are people like Sherlock Holmes out there, instead of the universe being completely chaotic, which is actually the truth.

This fabulous character is the creation of Arthur Conan Doyle who, in my opinion, was a writer of genius. No wonder many of us wish to tread in his footsteps. Sherlock now lives in other people’s stories too, as he does in The Devil’s Promise, penned by the great Davies, whose Sherlock Holmes writings have brought me hours of pleasure.

Holmes and Watson are staying in an isolated cottage in Devon when they they find themselves caught up in a nightmare scenario of a puzzling surreal nature they cannot understand. After Holmes discovers the body on the beach weird images appear on the door of the cottage, they are attacked by villagers, and meet a brother and his strange sister who warns them to leave or they will be killed.

But I was a little disappointed; it began well but later became repetitive – the dead body disappears and reappears and Watson keeps getting into fights, being hit on the head and losing consciousness. It has elements of suspense, as Holmes is coerced to take part in a ceremony to raise the Devil. But I began to think it was all very predictable – maybe it’s the cynic in me but I found myself reading just to see how it ended and whether it was as predictable as I thought it was. And it was, apart from the very last three sentences.

A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

This is the first Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson mystery, published in 1887. A Study in Scarlet is a novel in two parts. The first, narrated by Dr John Watson, begins in 1881 with Watson on nine months convalescent leave from the army, having been shot in his shoulder whilst in Afghanistan, followed by an attack of enteric fever. As a result he was weak and emaciated – ‘as thin as a lather and as brown as a nut.‘ He was looking for lodgings when he met a friend who introduced him to an acquaintance who was working in the chemical laboratory at the hospital – Sherlock Holmes, who he described as ‘a little too scientific for my tastes – it approaches to cold-bloodedness. … He appears to have a passion for definite and exact knowledge.’ 

They get on immediately and take a suite of rooms in 221B Baker Street, after Holmes astounded Watson by deducing that Watson had served in Afghanistan. Holmes describes his occupation as a ‘consulting detective‘ solving crimes for both private individuals and the police, using his intuition, observation and the rules of deduction. Tobias Gregson and Lestrade both Scotland Yard detectives regularly ask Holmes for his help.

Very soon they are involved in investigating the murder of Enoch J Drebber, an American found dead in the front room of an empty house at 3 Lauriston Gardens, off the Brixton Road,  with the word “RACHE” scrawled in blood on the wall beside the body.

A Study in Scarlet is a superb story introducing Conan Doyle’s characters – Holmes reminds Watson of

… a pure-blooded well-trained foxhound as it dashes backwards and forwards through the covert, whining in its eagerness, until it comes across the lost scent.

Holmes is his brilliant best, leaving the police officers behind as he discovers the killer. And there then follows a flashback, narrated in the third person, to Part II The Country of the Saints to America in 1847, specifically to a Mormon community, explaining the events that led up to to the murder, where John Ferrier and his adopted daughter Lucy are first rescued from death in the desert and then subjected to the community’s rules, specifically with regard to Lucy’s marriage. At first I just wanted to get back to the murder inquiry and find out how Holmes discovered the murderer’s identity, but soon I was engrossed in the American story. Eventually the two parts come together in Chapter VI as Watson resumes the narrative and  Holmes reveals how he solved the problem by reasoning backwards and from a ‘few very ordinary deductions‘ was able to catch the criminal within three days.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story, written in a straightforward style with enough description to visualise both Victorian London and the American Wild West. I’d watched the TV version A Study in Pink in the Sherlock series, which although very different in some respects is surprisingly faithful to the book in others. I like both versions.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was born in Edinburgh in 1859 and died in 1930. He studied medicine at Edinburgh University, becoming the surgeon’s clerk to Professor Joseph Bell said to be the model for Sherlock Holmes’ methods of deduction. He gave up being a doctor with his success as an author and became involved in many causes – including divorce law reform, a channel tunnel, and inflatable life jackets. He was instrumental in the introduction of the Court of Criminal Appeal and was a volunteer physician in the Boer War. Later in life he became a convert to spiritualism.

See Fantastic Fiction for a list of works by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Challenges: Read Scotland 2014, the Colour Coded Challenge, Mount TBR 2014 and My Kind of Mystery.

The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz

*I enjoyed reading Anthony Horowitz’s book, The House of Silk. It’s pacy, full of atmosphere and mystery, and above all it captures the essence of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson. Horowitz’s plot is cunning, full of twists and turns, with allusions to Conan Doyle’s stories.

Synopsis from the book cover:

It is November 1890 and London is gripped by a merciless winter. Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson are enjoying tea by the fire when an agitated gentleman arrives unannounced at 221b Baker Street. He begs Holmes for help, telling the unnerving story of a scar-faced man with piercing eyes who has stalked him in recent weeks. Intrigued, Holmes and Watson find themselves swiftly drawn into a series of puzzling and sinister events, stretching from the gas-lit streets of London to the teeming criminal underworld of Boston and the mysterious ‘House of Silk’ . . .

My view:

The book is narrated by Watson as he looks back on two of the most puzzling and sinister cases he and Homes had to solve November 1890 – that of The Man in the Flat Cap and The House of Silk. The first involves an art dealer, Mr Carstairs who is being threatened by a member of the American Flat Cap Gang, whereas the second concerns the murder of Ross, a new member of the Baker Street Irregulars, the scruffy, ragged gang of street urchins Sherlock Holmes uses to help him track down criminals. For a while I couldn’t see how these cases connected, or indeed if they did, as Horowitz effortlessly spun the wool over my eyes .

I haven’t read anything by Anthony Horowitz before, although when I read that he is a TV screenwriter, including Midsomer Murders, Foyles War and Poirot to his name I realised that I’ve certainly enjoyed his work before. He’s also written bestselling children’s books, including the Alex Rider series.

I’m not often keen on pastiches,  prequels or sequels written by a different author from the original but this one is the exception. The House of Silk is vastly entertaining, a page-turner, full of detail and great characterisation, with Holmes at the peak of his powers, even though it nearly costs him his life. I do hope there will be a second book.

*Edited after first publishing – see comments*.

Crime Fiction Alphabet 2012: Letter A

Kerrie’s Crime Fiction Alphabet begins this week with the letter A.Letter A

Here are the rules:

By Friday of each week participants try to write a blog post about crime fiction related to the letter of the week.

Your post MUST be related to either the first letter of a book’s title, the first letter of an author’s first name, or the first letter of the author’s surname, or even maybe a crime fiction “topic”. But above all, it has to be crime fiction.
So you see you have lots of choice.
You could write a review, or a bio of an author, so long as it fits the rules somehow.
(It is ok too to skip a week.)

My choice for the letter A is Arthur Conan Doyle and The Sign of Four, sometimes called The Sign of the Four. Set in 1888 this is the second Sherlock Holmes book written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, published in 1890.

Description from Goodreads:

Yellow fog is swirling through the streets of London, and Sherlock Holmes himself is sitting in a cocaine-induced haze until the arrival of a distressed and beautiful young lady forces the great detective into action. Each year following the strange disappearance of her father, Miss Morstan has received a present of a rare and lustrous pearl. Now, on the day she is summoned to meet her anonymous benefactor, she consults Holmes and Watson.

My thoughts:

Although I have a copy of this book on my Kindle, I listened to an audiobook of the novel, narrated by Derek Jacobi. Holmes is bored, hence the cocaine and Dr Watson is concerned about the effect on his health, although he hesitates to protest at his use of the drug because:

Again and again I had registered a vow that I should deliver my soul upon the subject, but there was that cool, nonchalant air of my companion which made him the last man with whom one could care to take anything approaching to a liberty. His great powers, his masterly manner, and the experience of his many extraordinary qualities, all made me diffident and backward in crossing him.

So they are both keen to investigate the mystery Mary Morstan presents to them. Holmes is intrigued by the mystery, involving the murder of Bartholomew Sholto, the Agra treasure stolen during the Indian Mutiny of 1857 and a secret pact between the four thieves – the ‘Four’ of the title, resulting in a chase down the River Thames in a super-fast steam launch.

It’s narrated by Dr Watson, who falls in love with Mary during the course of the investigation, but it is only at the end of the novel that he plucks up his courage to propose to her. Derek Jacobi does an admirable job, with easily distinguishable voices and reasonable versions of the women’s voices. The story is complex and fast-paced, with Holmes seemingly solving the mystery from clues which he then explains to Watson. But I thought the last chapter was too long, explaining Jonathan Small’s involvement in the theft of the treasure and his attempts to retrieve it, but as Dr Watson is the narrator and he didn’t know any of this I suppose it was the only way of including it.

There are a number of minor characters that stand out, even though they have minimal involvement and are only sketched in. I’m thinking of the Scotland Yard Inspector, Athelney Jones, who Holmes describes as ‘not a bad fellow’. He arrests the whole of Sholto’s household, even his brother. There is also Toby, the dog, described as an ‘ugly long haired, lop-eared creature, half spaniel and half lurcher, brown and white in colour, with a very clumsy waddling gait.’ Also notable are the Baker Street Irregulars, a gang of ‘dirty and little street-Arabs‘ Holmes employs to chase down the criminals. He pays them a shilling a day, with a guinea prize for the first boy to find the vital clue.

All in all, an enjoyable ‘read’ and as I was listening I could visualise the scenes. It begins and ends with Holmes reaching for his cocaine.

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly event hosted by MizB of Should be Reading.

My teaser today is from The Adventure of the Dancing Men in Favourite Sherlock Holmes Stories by Arthur Conan Doyle.

Holmes had been seated for some hours in silence, with his long thin back curved over a chemical vessel in which he was brewing a particularly malodorous product. His head was sunk upon his breast, and he looked from my point of view like a strange, lank bird, with grey dull plumage and a black top-knot.

‘So, Watson, said he, suddenly, ‘you do not propose to invest in South African securities?’ (page 57)

Favourite Sherlock Holmes Stories is a collection of twelve stories that Arthur Conan Doyle rated as his very best. It includes what Conan Doyle described as ‘the grim snake story’, The Speckled Band, and The Red-Headed League and The Dancing  Men on account of the originality of the plot of each.

It  also includes his first story – A Scandal in Bohemia; the story that deceived the public with the erroneous death of Holmes –  The Final Problem;  and the story that explained away the alleged death of Holmes – The Empty House.