By Anthony Horowitz. Grade: B+
I’ve been delving into Sherlock Holmes an age before the era of pre-teen Benedict Cumberbatch swoon-ers dawned. “The complete works of Sherlock Holmes” is one of the books I label as an ‘essential read’. I’ve viewed and enjoyed both, The Sherlock Holmes movies AND the well acclaimed TV series (which was, somehow, not ruined for me, despite continuous attempts by frenemies to reveal spoilers). Hell, I’ve even watched Batman vs Sherlock Holmes on Epic Rap Battles of History (brilliant YouTube channel, check out the Vader vs Hitler ones. Simply amazing).
The back story is to simply justify my scoffing at the author, with a teensy bit of admiration at his guts, for considering to write a novel that follows the trail paved by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Steven Moffat. It’s almost as if the author’s deliberately set himself up to fail.
Sherlock Holmes is dead. Days after Holmes and his arch-enemy Moriarty fall to their doom at the Reichenbach Falls, Pinkerton agent Frederick Chase arrives in Europe from New York. The death of Moriarty has created a poisonous vacuum which has been swiftly filled by a fiendish new criminal mastermind who has risen to take his place. Ably assisted by Inspector Athelney Jones of Scotland Yard, a devoted student of Holmes’s methods of investigation and deduction, Frederick Chase must forge a path through the darkest corners of the capital to shine light on this shadowy figure, a man much feared but seldom seen, a man determined to engulf London in a tide of murder and menace.
One of the main challenges to writing such a book, I think, is the fact that the author is continuing someone else’s tale. Sherlock Holmes’s stories are something both the author and the reader grew up with, hence, there are quite a few actions/responses/behaviors mentioned in the book that the reader might not agree to be consistent with the original book/movie/tv series.
The book is balanced. There are parts where you’re simply annoyed at the writing style and parts where you’re impressed at the way the author makes everything unravel. Then there’s the part where the author seemingly hits you on the face with a fifty pound sledgehammer and screams “PLOT TWIST!” (It’s taking all my self-control to not give away the ending.)
The story follows the trail of Frederick Chase, introduced as a Pinkerton Agent, and Scotland Yard Detective, Athelney Jones, as they try to catch the criminal mastermind trying to take a foothold in London after the fall of Moriarty. That’s it. I honestly cannot reveal anything else without spoiling the book for you.
Athelney’s a brilliant inspector well versed in Sherlock’s methods, and uses most of his techniques to deduce things. However, the author’s gone far enough to even make them share the same catchphrases, which makes the storyline a bit…irritating at times. Going as far as to italicizing the phrases, the reader invariably feels the need to say “yes, yes, I KNOW that’s what Sherlock used to say”. I can’t imagine the author pulling this off even if the inspector was revealed to be Sherlock Holmes himself (No, that’s not the case. I would never be that evil. I think). As I mentioned before, some of the characters’ personalities were also a bit off. I understand that Lestrade’s rarely helpful, but the Scotland Yard’s reaction to Sherlock Holmes’ supposed death is slightly disturbing.
It’s unusually difficult for me to decide which side to pick on this novel. Some parts are entrancing, while others could have definitely been done without. It’s like the author has baked a soufflé, the part harder to get, perfectly, and yet has used substandard chocolate flakes and ruined vanilla ice cream to coat it. However, despite most of the little elements going awry, the author has still managed to concoct a brilliant core storyline. This is one of the books that, despite being over 300 pages, still merit being read in a single sitting.