The latest release from Titan Books to revive a classic literary villain, Kim Newman’s Professor Moriarity and the Hound of the D’Urbervilles is a strange mixture of dark humor, love for one of the earliest pop culture villains, and a smartly written plot that attempts to draw together the character as a whole, even if the great parts don’t end up equalling a great sum. Interstingly enough, sums are Moriarity’s primary concern.
The story is a supposed biography by Moriarty’s longtime closest associate, Colonel Sebastian “Basher” Moran. While Basher breifly covers his past, and how he came to be in the employ of the Professor, there is really only but passing mention to the famous Sherlock Holmes, because this story is not about him. While he is often portrayed as Moritarty’s nemesis, really, the two crossed paths on rare, if infamous, occassion.
Therefore, this book doesn’t have much to do with Holmes directly, but instead enjoys the company of Professor James Moriarty, mathemetician, and proclaimed “Napoleon of Crime” for his outlandish schemes and ultimate control over the London, and possibly world, crime syndicates. We follow Moriarty and Moran on a few of their more exotic crime escapades, as well as the day to day doldrums of running a crime syndicate. Most entertaining of these episodes is where Moriarty has seven different factions warring all over Conduit Street for the prized possessions he has taken just to get the groups in one place with each other. Chaos, naturally, ensues.
We learn a bit more about the Moriarty family tree, when Moran accompanies the Professor to an incident where he ultimately meets both of James Moriarty’s brothers, James Moriarty, and James Moriarty. It’s a complicated situation, but comically explained with the dry wit appropriate for the situation.
Author Kim Newman’s best trait on this book is to seamlessly extract the characters from the bits and pieces that came out of the work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and turn it into an exciting book that is a bit of a wink and a nod to fans of the original characters, while still being a fully developed novel for the most part.
The only thing I felt that was unnatural was the ending, it’s Doyle’s ending to the character, but it’s inserted seemingly post-haste, just to satisfy fans of the series, instead of taking a bold step and finding a different place to end this book.
As a fictional biography, it’s entertaining and gives a great portrait of an infinitely interesting character, my only complaint would be it felt too condensed, with too little of a timespan covered in the character’s life. However, I understand general audiences mostly want their books a certain length, and anything more would likely only be of interest to Holmes fanatics.
I love steampunk-ish cover art for this book, it fits the mood perfectly. As an extra glimpse into a fascinating character, it works and entertains. As a complete biography to the character of Professor James Moriarty, there is just too much left unsaid. Definitely for fans of Sherlock Holmes, crime fiction, and steam-punk fiction.