Moriarty: The Hound of the D’Urbervilles – Kim Newman

Not content with reissuing and extending his Anno Dracula series, the excellent Mr Newman has unleashed another book. Moriarty is, of course, famous as the arch-enemy of Sherlock Holmes, despite him appearing in just one story, and having an off-stage appearance, so to speak, in another. This hasn’t stopped him appearing in numerous movies, TV adaptations and Holmes stories by other writers, but the fact remains that we know very little about the criminally inclined mathematics professor. This puts an author in the happy position of being able to play with the character and take things in whatever direction he pleases. When the author in question is Kim Newman, this is a recipe for fun. Lots of fun, and more literary and cultural references than anyone who isn’t actually Kim Newman will catch.

What we have here is either a series of stories disguised as a novel, or a novel disguised as a series of stories. It reads through as a continuous narrative, but each long chapter could be taken as a separate story – indeed, some have previously been published that way. It also benefits from useful endnotes written in the person of an editor discussing the source narrative.

And that source is none other than Colonel Sebastian Moran, known to Holmes readers as a close associate of Moriarty, and “the second most dangerous man in London”. Here, he’s revealed as the Watson to Moriarty’s Holmes – writer of the adventures, often used and misled in the cause of, errr, crime.

Yes, Moriarty is a consulting criminal, whose jobs take him and Moran into a variety of adventures, some of which bear a resemblance to more familiar stories. There are also numerous interactions with other 19th century literary figures, as the title should have warned you.

In the last story, we get another view of what happened at the Reichenbach Falls, which differs somewhat from both of those related by Watson. Not that you’d necessarily believe anything Moran tells you, of course.

This is great stuff – you can read it for laughs, read it as a Sherlock Holmes fan, play spot the reference before Kim hits you on the head with it, or indeed just enjoy the adventure. It belongs on your Kindle or bookshelf.