Professor Moriarty: The Hound of the D’Urbervilles by Kim Newman. Book Review


Titan Books p/b £7.99

Reviewed by Mike Chinn

If you can’t guess what you’re in for by the book title, then the seven chapters contained herein aren’t going to give it away, either: A Volume in Vermillion, A Shambles in Belgravia, The Red Planet League, The Hound of the D’Urbervilles, The Adventure of the Six Maledictions, The Greek Invertebrate and The Problem of the Final Adventure. Well of course it’s elementary – they’re all clever plays on the titles of Sherlock Holmes stories. Much as this collection is.

Newman stands the Holmes/Watson relationship on its head: Professor James Moriarty is the genius at the centre of each tale, Colonel Sebastian Moran his Boswell. Each of the above tales has echoes of Conan Doyle’s originals but he’s not the only author to get the treatment. HG Wells, William Hope Hodgson, Anthony Hope and Thomas Hardy are just a few of the authors whose characters are drafted in. Watson is name-checked but neither Sherlock nor Mycroft Holmes is actually named. Moran’s insolent writing style has far more interesting sobriquets for them both. Irene Adler does the dirty on the Professor just as she did Holmes – this time messing about with the aristocracy of Ruritania – but she’s by far a less ladylike creation here. Or at least, that’s how Moran’s jottings portray her.

As in Newman’s Anno Dracula books, characters whose literary pedigree make them  contemporaries of Moriarty and Holmes flit by often in cameos so fast you can miss them, leaving you wondering: “Wasn’t that…?” This is half the fun, of course. Some – like the Holmes brothers – aren’t actually mentioned by name, so it’s all the more delightful when you work it out.

There are several pages of footnotes at the end of the book, expanding on terminology, characters and sources; as well as three more pages of notes and acknowledgements. Fun and scholarly – two words you don’t normally expect to see in the same sentence.