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by Michael Kurland
Minotaur Books, February 2014
286 pages
ISBN: 0312365454

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

For fans of Sherlock Holmes - in any or all of his iterations - it might be a bit hard to change allegiance and start pulling for Moriarty. But Michael Kurland's fifth Professor Moriarty mystery makes the change worthwhile.

With Sherlock out of the country on undisclosed business and a series of gruesome murders reminiscent of Jack the Ripper's work causing unease in the highest ranks of British society, Mycroft Holmes suggests that those concerned with getting to the truth—and protecting the British royal family—turn to Professor Moriarty. The fact that Moriarty is in prison awaiting a retrial is of little consequence. Soon, Moriarty and his friends Mummer Tolliver and Benjamin Barnett are examining crime scenes, interviewing witnesses, and even traveling to France to unravel a tangled plot of madness, murder, and misguided ambition. Sherlock plays a small but important role, but it is Moriarty who sets up a network of beggars to gather information, tracks down clues, and, ultimately, protects the monarchy - and England - from a threat meant to throw the country into chaos. Along the way, he also offhandedly solves the crime of which he's been accused and proves himself to be innocent.

Kurland packs a lot of action and plot twisting into his novel, as well as a subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) sense of humor, which makes for a fun read. The murders themselves are fairly grotesque, as are a number of the characters, but that just serves to make both more interesting. And while none of the characters is portrayed with any real depth - this is definitely a plot-driven rather than character-driven work - each has a memorable quirk, and all are extremely - and in some cases, surprisingly -likable. Moriarty himself is an intriguing character and becomes more so the more we get to know him. Tidbits about life in late-Victorian London and elements like secret passages, hidden rooms, and hypnosis add further elements of interest and authenticity - with a mysterious twist. Another twist comes in Kurland's presentation of his story. This isn't so much a murder mystery because we know the what and the who fairly early on. But it's the when and the why that become increasingly important as the story moves toward its climax, as well as the "how" of Moriarty protecting those who must be protected. All of that is sufficiently complex to keep the reader engaged to the end.

These days, varying interpretations of Sherlock Holmes seem to be everywhere, but whether or not you're a fan of that famous detective - or even if you're unfamiliar with Conan Doyle's work - Kurland's plotting and wit will go a long way toward convincing you to become a fan of Moriarty, and he's done it in such a way as to please both those who have been eagerly awaiting the latest Moriarty mystery and those who have just discovered this unexpected hero.

§ Meredith Frazier, a writer with a background in English literature, lives in Dallas, Texas

Reviewed by Meredith Frazier, February 2014

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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