During my reviews, I have so often mentioned my admiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his works about Sherlock Holmes that to do it again seems like flogging a dead horse. Since I am reviewing The Last Moriarty by Charles Veley, this time it is appropriate.
A lot of readers dislike pastiches, or new works using characters created by other writers. I have no problem with it, and in this case, in particular, I welcome it. My favorite Holmes stories have always been the longer ones, and here Mr. Veley uses the space in his novel to great effect, not only creating a very good thriller, but also allowing us unique and refreshing takes on both Holmes and Watson.
The Last Moriarty takes place after Holmes’ fateful encounter with Moriarty at Reichenbach Falls, and before Holmes had announced that he had faked his death in order to destroy the evil professor’s entire organization. The Prime Minister and his cabinet need Holmes to solve a murderous plot that could threaten a secret government meeting with American tycoons John D. Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan. Important as it is, Holmes also takes on another case; a young American actress named Lucy James, who was an orphan, wants Holmes to find out who her parents were. After looking into both cases it turns out that they are definitely linked.
Mr. Veley does an excellent job at slowly unraveling the two complex plots while moving the book along at a brisk pace full of action and thrills. He delves a bit more than most into Holmes’ past, and his personal life, and he does it without ever letting the tension falter. Of course there are the usual scenes were Sherlock dazzles everyone around him with his inductive reasoning, (most people say that Sherlock uses deductive reasoning, but just trust me this time), but they are handled well, with exposition kept to a minimum. One of the most refreshing aspects about Mr. Veley’s take on Holmes is that he allows the revelations to spin out throughout the story rather than piling them on in the end. The usual cast, from Mycroft to LeStrade and the Irregulars are all here, and while there are no real revelations, the characters are solid, and behave pretty much how we would expect. Mr. Veley also does a dead-perfect job of literary mimicry in his handling of Watson’s first person narration.
As usual, there so many twists and turns in a Holmes story that it’s hard to reveal a lot without flinging spoilers around left and right, but the story, and the plot are both clever, well thought out, and delivered with gusto. I enjoyed Mr. Veley’s novel a lot, and while there is nothing particularly new or shocking in his version of these classic characters, his execution of a taut and traditional story is flawless. I loved seeing these characters handled with such care and affection, and if Mr. Veley decides to do another book about Sherlock Holmes I will be the first in line to read it.