First, I’d like to point out that this is Kim Newman. So just absorb that for a moment.
Second, I’m a little further along in the book than I was in my last post, and Moriarty is still failing to establish itself as a real stand-alone novel. Instead, it seems to be a collection of mirror-opposite Sherlock moments that have been repackaged as a profile of two blandly evil characters.
Moreover, I can’t be the only person who’s reading this to get some of Sherlock and Moriarty’s encounters from Moriarty’s point of view, and the fact that Sherlock hasn’t even been mentioned yet feels like an attempt on the part of the author to be “clever.” Instead it simply feels cheap, especially with “gotchya” moments like the following:
“One man above all hated Professor Moriarty. And was hated by him. Throughout his dual career — imagine serpents representing maths and crookery, twining together like a wicked cadeuceus — the Prof was locked in deadly survival for supremacy — nay, for survival — with a human creature he saw as his arch-enemy, his eternal opposite, his nemesis.
Sir Nevil Airey Stent.”
All that paragraph needs is a record scratch.
Like I said, cheap.
In my last post I included Moriarty in a list of what I called “literary fanfiction,” which I defined as books that seek to turn a marginalized character into a lead and re-write or carry on the original story from their point of view. But when you’re dealing with a villain, it’s only worthwhile if they’re charismatically evil, the way Andrew Scott is with his hammy, young and hip Moriarty in BBC’s Sherlock. Otherwise, the author needs to provide some kind of sympathetic back story, like Gregory Maguire did with Wicked.
Newman does neither, and instead seems intent on highlighting the surprisingly boring day-to-day activities of Moran and Moriarty, without any real conflict, sympathy or moustache-twirling entertainment. It’s something akin to watching Snidely Whiplash go through his sinister mail and pick up his spooky dry-cleaning.