Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz

Like I have said before, I am a fan of Sherlock Holmes. I have read all the original stories and am currently enjoying the influx of new novels. Needless to say, when I saw this book bearing the title of Holmes’ nemesis, I was greatly intrigued.

Mere days have passed since Holmes’ and Moriarty have their final confrontation at Reichenbach Falls. Frederick Chase, an investigator from the infamous Pinkerton’s Detective Agency in New York arrives in Switzerland. There he meets Inspector Anthelney Jones from Scotland Yard, sent there to investigate and confirm Moriarty’s death.

Upon their meeting, Chase brings a dire warning: with Moriarty’s death a rather large vacancy has been left in London’s criminal underworld. While there is no shortage of candidates to fill the role, there is one particularly fiendish and cruel individual that Chase is after.

Joining forces, the two men travel from Switzerland to London in pursuit of this new threat. They must track down a man who has never been seen and is spoken of only in whispers and who is determined to take Moriarty’s place as his successor.

Moriarty is the second novel by Anthony Horowitz to sanctioned by the Arthur Conan Doyle Estate; and it is with good reason. In the novel Holmes’ world of Victorian London seems to come alive as Jones and Chase traverse its streets. Even those unfamiliar with the city of London will find themselves able to envision the settings in their mind.

Jones and Chase themselves are very interesting characters. Fans of the original Holmes’ stories will recognize Inspector Chase from ‘The Sign of Four’. Hating how he was portrayed in the published story, Chase becomes a devoted student of Holmes’ methods of deductions. He seeks to style himself as potentially Holmes’ successor just as he tries to find Moriarty’s successor. He delves in to his work much like Holmes’ does; head first and damned the consequences. Naturally this creates strife with his family and with his co-workers at Scotland Yard.

Chase is seemingly the penultimate Pinkerton Detective. Intelligent and headstrong he brings his own knowledge of the American criminals to London. He and Jones work well side by side as they try to solve a rather bizarre case.

Rare is the book, dear reader, that leaves me completely speechless by the end. Moriarty joins the rather short list that does just that. Now I will not spoil precisely what exactly left me so shocked, just know that while the entire book was a true page-turner it was those final few chapters that held me entirely entranced. With the final reveal and the final page, all I could say was “Oh wow…”

Well done Mr. Horowitz, well done.

Mort(e) by Robert Repino

Mort(e) on Amazon.com

According to Google, approximately 62% of households have at least one pet. While dogs and cats make up the majority, pets run the gambit from the very large to the very small. For countless years humans and animals have lived side by side, one relying on the other. What if one day however, that all changed?

In Mort(e) by Robert Repino we are presented with that ‘what if?’.  A war with no name has been waged with the extinction of humans as its goal. Instigated by a race of intelligent ants called the Colony, for thousands of years their Queen has been plotting and waiting. They create a type of hormone that turns domestic animals in to sentient beings and when unleashed they decimate the human populace.

The book follows Mort(e), a former house cat now turned fighter. He has become a war hero known for his bravery and for taking on the most dangerous missions to fight the humans. Mort(e)’s motivation isn’t to eradicate the humans however, but is to find his friend from the days before the Change – a dog named Sheba. It is the thought that one day he will find his friend that keeps him going. But as the strange human bioweapon EMSAH starts to claim more and more animal lives, Mort(e) wonders if he will ever see his friend again.

Things change when Mort(e) receives a message from the dwindling human resistance claiming Sheba is alive. It beings a journey for the cat from the final human strongholds and ending in the heart of the Colony itself. Mort(e) will be forced to question everything he knows and believes as he learns the source of EMSAH and the ultimate fate of all creatures.

As an animal lover and pet owner, I found myself greatly intrigued by the ideas brought forth in this book. Like other reviewers, to me this book felt like a post-apocalyptic version of ‘Animal Farm’. Animals rising against their human overlords only to find themselves falling in to the same traps and roles the humans created. The strong lord over the weak. The meek submit to the cruel. In all of this, how could one lone cat find his canine friend?

Mort(e) himself is a very interesting character. He starts the story with the name ‘Sebastian’, but like many animals after the Change, he chooses a new name for himself. It is in his previous life that he befriends Sheeba and in his current life that he searches for her. She is his reason for continuing on even when things seem their more bleak. It is the thought of her and of meeting up with her again that keeps him going as the novel progresses.

Mort(e) is a sweeping tale and Repino’s first novel – difficult to believe considering how well it is written. The story is a kind of morality tale, highlighting not only the violence we humans are capable of inflicting on others but on ourselves as well. It is a story that speaks of the strength of friendship and love and belief.

For a first novel, Repino has done exceptionally well. Personally I would love to see a sequel to Mort(e). Something perhaps several years down the road after the war. Bring back familiar characters and introduce new ones.

For now though, I will go hug my dog and let her know just how much I love her.

The Anatomist’s Wife by Anna Lee Huber

Scotland, 1830. The recently widowed Lady Kiera Darby has taken refuge with her sister and brother-in-law at their estate. There she finds solace in her painting and tries to put the past behind her. However when her family hosts a house party for the cream of London society, Kiera finds herself unable to hide. Once more she must face the ire of those who believe her to be as unnatural as her deceased husband – an anatomist who used her artistic talents for his own macabre reasons.

When  Lady Godwin, one of the guests is murdered, Kiera is asked to join inquiry agent Sebastian Gage and use her knowledge of human anatomy to aid the investigation. Accusations and rumors begin to fly, most of them centered on Kiera. Wanting nothing more than to leave the past behind, she finds herself working with Gage not only to prove her own innocence but to find the real murderer as well.

The Anatomist’s Wife is a version of one of my favorite mysteries – the locked room version. In this version though, a murder is committed and someone at the estate is the culprit. It is one of the guests? One of the staff? Or perhaps the host or hostess themselves? As we read we learn that nearly every guest has a reason for wanting Lady Godwin dead. Whether out of jealousy or out of spite, the reasons are numerous. So when we finally do reach the climax and discover who did it, the reasoning is believable if reprehensible.

The characters, from our two main protagonists Lady Kiera Darby and Sebastian Gage, to the lesser unnamed characters were all written well. Of course the main two have the most devoted to them but even with those who are mentioned only briefly we are given a type of closure to their story. Written in first person from the point of view of Lady Darby, the action is swift. We are able to put the pieces of the puzzle together along with her as each clue is uncovered. And when she manages to finally figure out the culprit it is a surprise to all involved.

Along with the main mystery plot line, there was a smaller secondary romantic plot between Lady Darby and Mr. Gage. It was well played out in that it never at any time out shone the original mystery. What I especially liked though was how the romantic plot line DIDN’T have a happy ending. While they definitely did develop feelings for one another, the two parted at the end of the book. And while it is hinted that they will meet again in the near future, their parting keeps the story that much more realistic.

All in all, I liked this book. I’m sure the sequel(s) are out by now and I’ll be keeping an eye out for them.

Thieftaker (Book 1 of the Thieftaker Chronicles) by D. B. Jackson

Thieftaker (The Thieftaker Chronicles)

Boston, 1765: The United States is far from the sweeping nation it will one day become. It does not even have that moniker yet. At this point in time it is 13 small colonies settled along the eastern shore and still very much under English rule. There are those who disagree with the current system – such as Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty – but Ethan Kaille is not one of them.

Ethan Kaille is a thieftaker – someone who is hired to track down thieves and return stolen property. It is a meager living but Ethan is good at what he does for he has an extra skill that most do not – he is also a conjurer. In using his magic though, he treads a very dangerous line; fear of witchcraft abounds and to be accused is almost certain death.

When Ethan is hired to recover a brooch stolen when a young woman was murdered, he quickly discovers that all is not what it seems. While aware there were other conjurers like himself in Boston, never has he encountered one so powerful. And this mysterious new individual seems to be out for blood.

I really enjoyed Thieftaker and am fairly sure if it weren’t for my work I would have finished it in far less time than I did. Like with other books I have read, I found myself having to place my hand over the facing page to prevent me from skipping ahead. As I simply had to know what happens next, I had to do this otherwise I know I would have missed whole paragraphs.

D.B. Jackson weaves a fascinating tale in this first book. It’s obvious he’s done his research as the infant city of Boston comes alive on the page. It also helped that a map was given at the front of the book (at least there was in the copy I got), so when there was a referral to a certain place or street, I could simply look at the map and had a better understanding. The action is swift and intriguing and the characters are likable, even the background characters. A feature I appreciate as all too often authors tend to gloss over any one who isn’t important to the story.

Ethan Kaille, our protagonist, is especially interesting. We are given hints of his background throughout this first book with him and I am really hoping to see more in forthcoming novels. Despite his rather harsh earlier years, Ethan retains his humanity and his heart. Some of the choices he must make are difficult and I freely admit that I cried with him over a decision he makes towards the later half of the book. The fact that HE cried impressed me. Many male characters in fantasy genre type books come across as hyper-masculine, they kill and maim and do not agonize over it; something which does not describe Ethan at all.

The book itself is an enjoyable mix of fantasy and reality. Many of the events described really did happen; the increasing taxes imposed by the British Crown, Samuel Adams and his Sons of Liberty, those citizens who wished to break away from the crown and those who remained loyal; all of these are true. Ethan Kaille and his thieftaking however are not though he is artfully woven in. Thieftakers certainly did exist, just not in the Thirteen Colonies at the time. That tiny fact does little to diminish the story though.

I really liked this book and will be keeping an eye out at my local library for the next in the series.