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Who Thinks Evil (A Professor Moriarty Novel) (Professor Moriarty 5)
Who Thinks Evil (A Professor Moriarty Novel) (Professor Moriarty 5)
by Michael Kurland
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.80

4.0 out of 5 stars A welcome addition to the Holmes (non)canon and a unique perspective of Professor James Moriarty, 24 July 2014
The year is 1890, two years since “Saucy Jack” preyed on the prostitutes of London’s East End, yet he’s still very much on the mind of many a streetwalker as they go about their illicit business. From the dimly lit streets of Whitechapel to the bedrooms of posh “gentlemen’s clubs”, horror at the Ripper’s crimes and anger at the inability of the Metropolitan Police to bring him to heel are still fresh. When a prostitute at one of London’s more fashionable bawdy houses is murdered in a manner reminiscent of the Ripper, the forces of Scotland Yard and agents of the Queen herself are gathered to both quell rumours of his reappearance and catch the perpetrator on the sly—before the cauldron that is public opinion boils over into violence. Complicating their surreptitious investigation is the identity of their prime suspect, the last known patron of the victim—namely one Albert Victor—Crown Prince and heir to the throne of England. Further complicating matters—his sudden disappearance and the inability of both his minders and the police to find him. Victoria’s men have their work cut out for them—either prove the heir apparent’s innocence or bring him to justice without jeopardizing the royal succession.

Meanwhile, the one man (Sherlock Holmes aside) capable of unravelling the various threads of this royal plot is languishing in the deepest cells of Newgate Prison, himself the victim of an elaborate frame-job. Who else but Professor James Moriarty, a.k.a. the “Napoleon of Crime’, would have the contacts and resources within the criminal underworld, not to mention the criminal insight, to stop this fiendish scheme? With the enthusiastic help of American journalist Benjamin Barnett, Moriarty’s diminutive majordomo Mummer Tolliver and the rather reluctant help of the brothers Holmes, Moriarty must solve the murder, clear the name of the heir to the throne and thereby provide his own salvation.

Michael Kurland wrote the first of his Moriarty novels, The Infernal Device in 1978, going on to write three sequels, the last published in 2006. Since then, the Napoleon of Crime has been on hiatus, at least until the publication of Who Thinks Evil earlier this year. Previously only attainable in e-book format, the entire series is now becoming available as Titan Books reissues the series for those eager to add Moriarty’s tales to their collection of Holmesian novels.

As a fan of the Holmes mythos but not having read Kurland’s earlier novels, I found myself looking forward to seeing the world as Moriarty does, and as a result was far from disappointed with this unique spin on the Consulting Detective’s nemesis. Instead of the one dimensional epitome of evil one thinks of upon hearing the name “Moriarty”, Kurland has created a well-rounded villain, both nuanced and with depth of character. Professor James Moriarty is not evil for evil’s sake, but rather a practitioner of a certain “pragmatic” evil. Moriarty’s crimes are revealed as selfishly altruistic—necessary to fund his scientific endeavors and therefore essential to the betterment of mankind. Perhaps selfishly altruistic is not the right phrase—narcissistically altruistic? Either way, the practice of science can be expensive and Moriarty is more pragmatic than malicious in his affairs.

James Moriarty is an unusual character, having evolved over the years from a minor (yet consequential) character in the Holmes canon to a legend towering above lesser literary villains. Kurland treats Moriarty as a misunderstood genius and flips the relationship between Moriarty and Holmes and their relative claims to brilliance on its head. In Who Thinks Evil, Holmes is not so much Moriarty’s equal but a decidedly lesser intellect— almost “Lestrade- like.”

Whereas inspector Lestrade traditionally plays an inept counterpoint to Holmes obvious aptitude of affairs deductive, in this tale Holmes himself acts the comic foil. Sherlock may indeed be the world’s foremost “Consulting Detective”, but Moriarty is the “Napoleon of Crime,” and by far the superior intellect. Kurland amuses the reader time and again as we watch Holmes’ bumbling efforts to “unmask” Moriarty’s villainy. One scene in particular demonstrates Moriarty’s easy intellectual superiority and involves the delivery of tea and cookies for Holmes to enjoy whilst the consulting detective “surreptitiously” surveils Moriarty from a bush. Sherlock’s scientific method of observation is so much more finely honed in Moriarty and this, combined with both an eidetic memory and startlingly high I. Q. makes Holmes a simpleton by comparison. Yet Moriarty respects Holmes even though he can be (and is) a great nuisance to Moriarty’s affairs. Given every chance to remove the meddlesome Holmes from the equation, Moriarty proves his malicious nature more myth than fact.

Just as Holmes needs a biographer in the form of Dr. John Watson, Kurland provides Moriarty his own chronicler in Benjamin Barnett, another man of letters and associate by way of gratitude for the help Moriarty afforded him years earlier. He’s clearly Moriarty’s stand in for Watson and a capable sleuth in his own right. Together with Mummer Tolliver, they act as Moriarty’s proxy in the hunt for the murderer of London’s prostitutes while he focuses his time on foiling the plot to undermine the monarchy.
Overall an excellent novel, there are a few quibbles to be had with Who Thinks Evil, the first of which is whether or not this is actually a mystery or more properly—a thriller. To me, the hallmark of a good mystery is how the author handles the Reveal—that moment when everything comes together and we as readers know exactly whodunit. Once you have the Reveal, there’s no longer a mystery, hence the earlier the Reveal, the less the novel is a mystery and the more a thriller. Alex Grecian’s The Yard is a good example of this. We as readers know within a couple of chapters who the killer is—mystery solved, as it were. Granted, the protagonist(s) don’t solve the mystery until much later in the novel, but there’s no mystery left for the reader. At that point the novel becomes a thriller, and if handled properly, it’s not too much of a letdown to know the identity of the culprit before the protagonist does. I myself enjoy a good mystery, preferring to figure things out for myself or be surprised at the end of the novel rather than knowing too much too soon. In other words, I like some mystery in my mystery.

Who Thinks Evil relinquishes the pretense of being a mystery about halfway through, once the antagonist(s) are introduced and we start seeing things from their viewpoint. From then on, it’s a straight line to thriller and the suspense no longer lies in whodunit, but rather how Moriarty and company will resolve the situation. Thankfully, Kurland adeptly makes the transition from mystery to thriller, leaving the reader satisfied without feeling ripped off by the early reveal.

The second quibble I had with Who Thinks Evil revolves around the climax of the novel. In the moment when Moriarty’s plans have all come together and the trap is set, something happens that makes a shambles of his meticulous preparations. An unforeseen turn of events demonstrates that all the planning in the world is subject to the vagaries of fate. It’s more outrageous fortune than meticulous schemes that foil the conspirators, and not so much a matter of giant intellect as having a girl who’s handy with a hatpin.

However, these are mere quibbles that don’t ever rise to the level of complaint. All in all, Michael Kurland has demonstrated a unique perspective with regards to the accepted mythos of Sherlock Holmes and enlightened us as readers to the misunderstood brilliance that is Professor James Moriarty.

The Casebook of Newbury & Hobbes (Newbury & Hobbes Investigations)
The Casebook of Newbury & Hobbes (Newbury & Hobbes Investigations)
by George Mann
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fleshes out the series wonderfully, 6 Jan 2014
Over the course of four novels, Sir Maurice Newbury and Miss Veronica Hobbes have combatted foes both technological and occult, serving as agents of the crown to protect and foster the interests of her majesty, Queen Victoria. They're not alone in their endeavors, at times enlisting the help of, at other times being seconded to, Sir Charles Bainbridge, chief inspector of Scotland Yard. However, everyone has an origin story, and The Casebook of Newbury and Hobbes is Mann's way of fleshing out the history of Newbury and Hobbes during the periods not chronicled by the novels. It also reveals a ghost of the past in the person of Templeton Black, Newbury's former assistant, and introduces the future in Peter Rutherford, a member of the British Secret Service who will go on to create his own legacy.

According to the author's notes, each of these stories can be found in other venues, but this is the first time they've been compiled into a Newbury and Hobbes collection. Overall, it's an excellent addition to Mann's Steampunk universe, filling in some of the details of Newbury's past and looking forward to the future of his "Ghost" series of roaring twenties novels set in a Steampunk New York. Stand out stories include his Sherlock homage, The Case of the Night Crawler and his tribute to H.P. Lovecraft, Strangers from the Sea. My personal favourite is The Shattered Teacup, which brings to mind the best of both Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie. It's a fun murder mystery with obvious steampunk influence in the clockwork owl that proves essential to solving the case. The only story that falls flat (for me, at least) is What Lies Beneath, but honestly, that owes more to my distaste for epistolary writing than anything Mann did with the story.

The Casebook of Newbury and Hobbes is a seamless blend of Victorian detective story sprinkled with Steampunk elements and a dash of the occult. Mann captures the flavour of Victorian mystery fiction usually identified with Arthur Conan Doyle and manages to put a steampunk flourish to it. It's a great addition to the universe established in the Newbury and Hobbes mysteries, fleshing out the series for those fans that want to see a bit more. However, if you haven't faithfully followed the series from the outset, it may not be the book for you. Simple solution for those who are unfamiliar--get yourselves to a bookstore and catch up on the series before delving into this wonderful backstory of Newbury and Hobbes, occult detectives.

by Kim Newman
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.19

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Truly horrifying, 19 Aug 2013
This review is from: Jago (Paperback)
After reading Newman's Anno Dracula on several occasions, when the chance to read and review a publisher's copy came up, I jumped at the chance. However, after reading it, I'm almost at a loss as to how to approach it in review. So, let's try this:

The Good: Newman has a wonderful style and is to my mind one of the foremost writers of the horror genre. He takes the time to fully develop his characters, and make you truly want to root for them in the face of whatever horrific situation he's devised. His thought process is truly twisted, so don't expect your "run of the mill" horror novel. There were moments while reading this novel that I was either horrified, or grossed out, which is generally the intent of horror. The climax of the novel also makes up for what comes next.

The Bad: This is a 300 page novel packed into a 643 page shell. Newman is a master of universe building, but spends so much time putting the pieces in place, it holds back the novel. It took me six months to read this novel. Every time I got fed up and said, "where the hell is this going," I'd put the novel down and read something else until I was ready to attempt it again. There's also some subtle irony in that we don't meet Anthony Jago, beloved leader of the Agapemone cult (and whose name graces the cover) until almost halfway through the novel. There's never really any development of his character, except through brief moments from his past, and even then they're told from the point of view of those around him. We never really get an explanation of what makes this God on earth tick.

The Ugly: There are some truly disgusting moments in this novel, so be forewarned. On the other hand, if you love a good gross out, then this is the book for you--if you're willing to invest the time. For me, I think I'll go re-read Anno Dracula.

Girl Genius - Agatha H and the Clockwork Princess (Girl Genius 2)
Girl Genius - Agatha H and the Clockwork Princess (Girl Genius 2)
by Phil and Kaja Foglio
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.35

4.0 out of 5 stars A fun sequel in an interesting Steampunk series, 26 April 2013
Girl Genius: Agatha H and the Clockwork Princess reads much like an old time serial, those weekly installments of great classics like Flash Gordon one might see at the theatre week by week. Understandably so, since Girl Genius is based on the serialized web comic by Phil and Kaja Foglio. It's extremely entertaining to be able to flip back and forth between comic and book to compare one's inner conception of the various characters with the author's own visuals. This sequel also helps to flesh out a bit of the back story behind the events of the first novel. However, it is useful to have the Girl Genius Wiki on hand, as the sheer number of characters can make for confusion.

One notable aspect of both Girl Genius novels is the demonstration of a number of strong female characters, ranging from Agatha herself, a young lady plunged into a situation in which she has to rely on her natural talents, to Zeetha, the lonely, yet dangerous warrior woman, and extending to some of the more villainous characters. Even the OTHER, the epitome of villainy in this Steampunk world is a female.

There's also a strong comedic element to the story, usually embodied in Agatha and her reactions to new experiences, or the comedic relief of her feline familiar. Sometimes bawdy, sometimes slapstick, there is generally a lot of humour to counterbalance the darker aspects of the characters experiences as they move through a world that hides danger around every corner.

The biggest drawback to this novel is that it's so very, very, looooooooonnnngggg! Granted, Girl Genius is translated to print from the web comic and comic story arcs can last for years, but at 590 pages, the novel could be a strain on the attention spans of younger readers. Honestly, this novel wouldn't suffer a bit if they had cut out a hundred pages (at least), and I wonder if their intended target audience--bear with me, I'm assuming young teens--would be willing to invest so much of their time. The Foglio's previous novel topped out at a more manageable 300 or so pages.

Agatha H and the Clockwork Princess is a lot of fun, although it seemed to take forever to get through. The payoff is well worth it though, and I do hope to see further print installments of the series. Agatha's story has barely begun--and I know I'd like to read the rest of it.

Girl Genius - Agatha H and the Airship City (Girl Genius 1)
Girl Genius - Agatha H and the Airship City (Girl Genius 1)
by Phil and Kaja Foglio
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.62

4.0 out of 5 stars Fun filled Steampunk Goodness!, 18 Feb 2013
Clearly a Steampunk novel with great aspirations, Girl Genius is based on the Web comic of the same name by Phil and Kaja Foglio. When first sitting down to read it, I worried that Girl Genius was going to be a Harry Potter knock off, what with the main character being a student at a school for gifted children in a land divided into those who are normal and those who possess a special talent, this time an innate talent for science rather than magic. However, aside from the fact that she's a university student and that magic has been replaced by science, there are very few similarities between the two novels.

Actually, that's both true and untrue. The more I think of the Other who disappeared years ago after wreaking havoc on the realm, the more I see the comparison to Voldemort of the Potter series. However, the story of a girl taken from her home and plunged into a strange and wondrous world begs comparison to Baum's Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz, although in this case, the world seems filled with tin men. Once I got beyond the comparison, I was able to sit back and enjoy a thoroughly entertaining tale. The Foglio's have done a bang up job of creating their own Steampunk universe and inhabiting it with various interesting and unique characters. My personal favourites were the Jagermonsters, an army of Hydes (of the Dr. Jekyll variety). Ferocious and intimidating, they are also endowed with a certain childlike charm. They also add a nice bit of comic relief, even in situations that wouldn't normally seem to warrant humour.

Is this a young adult novel? That's a hard question to answer, as some of the scenes are (from the perspective of this forty year old) somewhat racy, although there's really no more hanky-panky than a stolen kiss. It's definitely not limited to teens, being a fun filled romp for anyone with a predilection towards the Steampunk genre.

Fair warning: Agatha H and the Airship City is certainly not meant to be a self-contained novel. Rather, it's more of a prologue to a larger story, introducing the main characters and the world they inhabit without resolving the greater issues introduced. Where are Agatha's parents? What of the legendary Heterodyne brothers and the mysterious Other that once terrorized the realm? Why are the Jagermonsters so obviously smitten with Agatha? These are a few of the questions that will hopefully be addressed in the sequel: Agatha H and the Clockwork Princess. This teaser novel has definitely got me hooked.

(If you'd like to check out the web comic and see how Agatha and company compare to your personal vision of them, check out Girl Genius on-line)

The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula
The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula
by Loren D. Estleman
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.39

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula, 11 Jan 2013
Having read Fred Saberhagen's The Holmes-Dracula File a few years ago, I was relieved to find Loren D. Estleman's take on the odd match up of Sherlock Holmes and Dracula greatly more satisfying. Lately I've been reading the original Sherlock Holmes stories (I know, I know, what was I waiting for?) and was pleasantly surprised to find that during the course of reading Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula, the author managed to capture both the voice and character of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's signature creation. Estleman's Watson is very much one Doyle would recognize, and Sherlock is very much true to form, something I would imagine hard to achieve when attempting to emulate the writing style of a master of his genre. After all, Saberhagen was a master in his own right, and his attempt met with much less success.

Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula is also very much Watson's story, with Sherlock as his main character and Dracula as the man (demon?) behind the curtain, much discussed but rarely seen. However, on those few occasions, Holmes and Watson only manage to escape with their lives because the Count underestimates their tenacity--and Holmes' intellect--or is occupied by something else. Along the way we get a look at Holmes and his process of deductive reasoning, and a fair bit of action, whether hopping a moving train or chasing down a vampire by bloodhound, by carriage, and even steam cutter.

The one complaint I have with this novel is the one that can't be avoided. Sherlock's portion of the story of Count Dracula of necessity has to end before the threat that is Dracula can be resolved, keeping the chronology of Stoker's novel intact. Knowing that the villain will not be vanquished by the end of the novel is somewhat unsatisfying, but necessary to the continuity of Stoker's tale. However, it leads to a novel which "stops short," leaving you wanting more. Luckily, Estleman also wrote Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Holmes, another adventure I plan to pursue in the near future.

Sherlock Holmes: The Army of Doctor Moreau
Sherlock Holmes: The Army of Doctor Moreau
by Guy Adams
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.59

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sherlock Holmes:The Army of Dr. Moreau, 25 Sep 2012
Within the first several pages, it becomes obvious that Guy Adams in going to have a little irreverent fun with the legend that is Sherlock Holmes. Whether it's John Watson describing himself as "The Crime Doctor" (a wink to the 1988 movie, Without a Clue), his blending of H.G. Wells' tale of Edward Pendrick's visit to The Island of Doctor Moreau, or a nod to his own World House novels in the form of explorer and big game hunter Roger Carruthers, Adams has mashed together works by two literary greats of the 19th century and come out with a winner.

When citizens of London start turning up mauled by a variety of creatures that simply do not exist on her majesty's island nation, Mycroft Holmes (he who is the government) turns to his brother Sherlock and offers him a chance to serve Queen and country and solve a seemingly impossible crime. Mycroft knows the story of Edward Pendrick and Dr. Moreau (once in his employ) and fears that Moreau is either not as dead as was formerly believed, or that someone has resurrected his work as a vivisectionist, hoping to create a race of super beasts for their own nefarious purposes. Sherlock finds himself intrigued, and before you know it, the game is afoot!

The Army of Dr. Moreau is a rollicking good ride, as Holmes and Watson take to the cities sewers, tracing the path of a local gang leader whose description sounds suspiciously canine. They also meet with a group of Mycroft's extraordinary gentlemen, from Professor George Edward Challenger (recently of Doyle's The Lost World) to Professor Lindenbrook (of Verne's A Journey to the Centre of the Earth) who have been tasked to assist in ways scientific and medical, and of course, Adams own creation, who will later become pivotal to the events of The World House and The World House: Restoration (two must read books if you decide you like Guy Adams).

The novel does falter somewhat in the latter third, as Adams strays from the traditional Holmesian mystery to a straight up action novel, yet there is enough of Holmes' and Watson essential nature to carry it to the finish. What starts out as a charming change of viewpoint (Holmes takes the reins as narrator when Watson becomes unavailable) becomes somewhat frenetic late in the novel, as every chapter is told from a different point of view. It does feel a bit rushed, and I wonder if his story could have benefitted from another fifty or so pages. However, it doesn't distract significantly from what is a thoroughly fun, although pulpy, pastiche.

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