sometimes it happens that books surprise me in a positive way and the book I review today belongs to this category.
Here we go.
The House of Moriarty
(digital, November 2015) [ Kindle Edition ASIN: B010RALV14]by Sam Christer which is a pen name used by author Michael Morley.
"Big Ben chimes in the first seconds of the first day of 1900, the start of a fresh century. Inside London's oldest gaol, preparations are afoot to hang Victorian England's deadliest assassin, a man wanted for two decades' worth of murders.
Cold-blooded killer Simeon Lynch has lived a brutal and glorious life in the employ of the House of Moriarty - the most feared criminal enterprise in the world. Now, as he faces the noose, Simeon learns dark truths about his master, about Sherlock Holmes and about his own past. Truths that make him determined to escape and kill again...
Follow Simeon's bloody footsteps through the capital's cobbled alleyways, wretched workhouses and flash taverns as he crosses swords with Sherlock Holmes and the villainous characters of Victorian London." [Source]
The 341 pages of the book are divided into five consecutively numbered parts which are subdivided into 31 named chapters which are subdivided too.
The story is told from first person point-of-view and switch between to time lines which meet at the end of the story.
The House of Moriarty surprised me in several ways.
The story is completely told from the point of view of cold-blooded killer Simeon Lynchon and he is the main character and not Professor James Moriarty.
In fact Professor James Moriarty appears less than ten times. Simeon worked for Brogan Moriarty who is a brother of James. Brogan is a devilish character and has a great impact on Simeon's life. Following persons belong to the inner circle of Brogan Moriarty and have also an impact on Simon's life: Lady Elizabeth Audsley, Mr. Michael Brannigan, Miss Surrey Breed, Sirius Gunn and Mr. Alexander Rathbone. Each of them has her/his own fate.
What about the great detective? He plays a certain role but he does appear even less than Professor James Moriarty. Dr. Watson is only mentioned and Mycroft Holmes appears only once.
All the listed characters are well enough described to build up your mind on each.
Simeon is a violent character and to be honest he is not a character to fall in love with.
Nevertheless it is absolutely fascinating to follow him and his development. Not to forget some unexpected revelations which gave the story more depth.
The story telling switches between two time lines which meet at the end of the book.
On the one hand is Simeon's life in the last 18 days in Newgate prison before his execution.
On the other hand we get to know Simon's life from the beginning. This is done with highlighting important events in his life.
This is a book full of violence spiced with heartfelt moments. Nevertheless the described violence serves a purpose because it supports one of the main questions I discovered and did not expect to find:
Where does violence derive from? What is the impact of our surrounding on human development? What is the impact of undeveloped social competence?
Is there a difference between "good" and "bad" violence? Who defines what is right or wrong?
Don't get me wrong. The House of Moriarty is far beyond to be a psychological study. Nevertheless there is no way out that this compelling story lead to all these questions I listed above. It is a story which delivers an insight to the "dark" side of human beings or as Simeon wanted to write on his prison cell wall:
"Though I walk through the valley of shadow and death I fear no evil.
For I am evil" (p. 235)
Are we really the most advanced species on this planet? I have more doubts than I had before reading the book.
Of course I know the story of Simeon Lynch is fiction. He did not exist in real life but the description of life in Victorian era especially for kids sounds really serious.This was a time where lower class children have been nothing more than cheap work force. Furthermore several real people are mentioned and have an impact on Simon like Charles Darwin or the first person to be hanged in 1900 Louise Masset.
This is the place to open the cornucopia of praising words like
irresistible, intelligent, fascinating, awesome, impressive, intense, intoxicating, intriguing, mesmerising, excellent ....
Yes, The House of Moriarty deserve them all.
For me The House of Moriarty is one of the best books I read in 2015.
I'm still impressed by what has delivered within this crime story.