I’ve been avoiding my keyboard. I’ve wanted to write, but I just haven’t been able to. You know how they say writing is cathartic? Actually, as fellow bloggers, you probably already know that. Well, writing is incredibly cathartic. But as you’re writing and turning your reality into art there’s this horrible feeling of sucking poison out from your stomach, up through your intestines, through the middle of your heart, before it releases somewhere around your oesophagus. It is a horrible, horrible feeling that leads to the lifting of a giant weight. And as much as I would like to start the cathartic process, I just can’t bring myself to stare that poison in the face.
Which is probably one of the reasons it took me so long to finish Moriarty. So I wouldn’t have to write it up.
This book has intrigued me since around Christmas. I found it while I was Christmas shopping for a friend of mine and the lovely ladies of Dymocks explained to me that Anthony Horowitz is the only living author with permission from Arthur Conan Doyle’s estate to write Sherlock Holmes canon. Anyone can write Sherlock Holmes stories, but only Horowitz’s are official. As an avid Sherlockian, I needed this book in my life. I also need to read The House of Silk so if anyone has a spare copy…?
Horowitz nailed the dialogue from the Victorian era. Down to the “here he is now, let’s go ask him” asides that Doyle always had in his own dialogue. However, the prose itself was incredibly simplistic, and therefore left me with the distinct taste of modernity in the back of my throat. Is this a bad thing? Maybe not for everyone, but it was a problem for me. If you’re writing Sherlock Holmes canon, the least you could do is recreate the era in which the stories were originally written. But that’s just my opinion.
I liked the storyline itself. What happens to London when Moriarty and Sherlock Holmes are pronounced “dead”? Who fills the positions left behind?
I also thought that writing the story from lesser known characters’ perspectives was a stroke of genius. Die hard Conan Doyle fans would be hard pressed to criticise stories about characters that never had much substance in the first place (I don’t mean two dimensional characters, I mean bit-player characters).
However, for the most part, the story seemed to drag. The pace was off. Nothing really happened until the last quarter of the book. I mean, there were shocking scenes and clues and whatnot but none of these mattered until the final chapters. Which annoyed me, because every single piece of the action in a mystery is supposed to feel important and keep you on the edge of your seat. This plot just didn’t do that for me.
There was a good half chapter of summing up in the worst way possible. When our protagonists Inspector Jones of Scotland Yard and Pinkerton agent, Frederick Chase, finally find their man and are trying to escort him to Scotland Yard despite political bureaucracy, the whole preceding plot gets summarised again. This would make sense in a visual medium such as TV or a movie, but in books, summarising what the reader has spent a good couple of hundred pages reading is a surefire way to lose your audience. I had to force my way through this chunk of novel, and no one should ever have to force themselves to read.
That being said, I was glad I did force myself through the muck of that half chapter when I got to the climax. There was a beautiful, unforeseeable twist that was so brilliantly executed I had to stop reading, close my eyes, and just bask in its awesomeness. Horowitz may struggle with pace and with the whole “let’s summarise the whole goddamn book just in case you weren’t paying attention” thing but damn he writes a good twist. Of course I’m not going to tell you what it is. I’m just going to leave you with the introduction to our protagonist for reasons that will become clear later:
“So that you may know whose company you keep, let me tell you that my name is Frederick Chase…”
So, just to summarise:
average writing + an unbelievable (and I mean that quite literally) twist =