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Friday, September 13, 2013
The Third Moriarty
"Well, then, about that chasm. I had no serious difficulty in getting out of it, for the very simple reason that I was never in it."
Thus begins Sherlock Holmes's explanation of his apparent death and subsequent resurrection -- a story that several generations of readers have found unsatisfactory. All sorts of counter explanations have arisen for why Holmes disappeared and what he was really doing for the three years known as The Great Hiatus.
British thriller writer John Gardner, author of more James Bond novels than Ian Fleming, cleverly realized that if Holmes wasn't dead, maybe Moriarty wasn't either. For many years I've had Gardner's The Return of Moriarty and The Revenge of Moriarty on my shelves. They were published during the Holmes boom of the 1970s.
Somehow I vaguely thought those two books were part of a trilogy. They weren't -- until 33 years after the second book. Then, in 2008, a year after Gardner's death, a novel called simply Moriarty was published. I don't think I'd ever heard of it until I found a mint-condition used copy waiting for me at Antique Emporium last weekend in Millersburg, Ohio.
I never liked Gardner's conceit that the Professor James Moriarty known to Holmes wasn't the real professor, but his younger brother who killed him and stolen his identity with the aid of a perfect disguise. But if you can get over that (as I did), Moriarty is a good read. With Holmes and Watson nowhere in the picture, Moriarty is the protagonist of the novel. We follow him as he returns to London after an absence and attempts to discover which of his four closest allies has betrayed him.
In Gardner's trilogy, as in the Canon, the Napoleon of Crime is the villain you love to hate.
Posted by Doctor Dan at 12:00 AM