Book: Moriarty

"Moriarty"

Days after Holmes and Moriarty disappear into the Reichenbach Falls’ churning depths, Frederick Chase, a senior investigator at New York’s infamous Pinkerton Detective Agency, arrives in Switzerland. Chase brings with him a dire warning: Moriarty’s death has left a convenient vacancy in London’s criminal underworld. There is no shortage of candidates to take his place–including one particularly fiendish criminal mastermind.

Chase is assisted by Inspector Athelney Jones, a Scotland Yard detective and devoted student of Holmes’s methods of deduction, whom Conan Doyle introduced in The Sign of Four. The two men join forces and fight their way through the sinuous streets of Victorian London in pursuit of this sinister figure, a man much feared but seldom seen, who is determined to stake his claim as Moriarty’s successor.

Three years ago, I wrote that The House of Silk was Anthony Horowitz’s best work–even if it didn’t feel like a proper Sherlock Holmes novel. Which was fine, because at the end of the day, it was a fun read.

I wish I could say the same for Moriarty.

It took me two weeks to finish the book, putting the book down after every chapter because I just couldn’t muster enough interest to continue reading.

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that none of the characters are familiar nor likable. I mean, Frederick Chase comes off very dumb for a supposed senior investigator, and Athelney Jones is trying too hard. And they don’t feel like fleshed-out characters, especially since they keep name-checking Sherlock Holmes and John Watson every chance they get.

But even if you replace Athelney and Frederick with Sherlock and Watson, I don’t think it would make any difference. The whole story itself doesn’t feel right; as if it overstayed its welcome.

And then there’s how the novel was wrapped up. I don’t think I’ve ever been this worked up about how a book ended. And not in a good way.

I mean, I’ve already suspected that there were external forces at play in the sidelines of the story. But the way it was revealed felt like a forced a-ha moment. It took away whatever good will I had left for the novel.

Moriarty is a very disappointing read.

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Book: Oblivion

"Oblivion"

The earth has almost been destroyed by the forces of darkness. Those who have survived are barely human, drifting in a world ruled by famine, terrorism and war. Any last hope now rests with five extraordinary teenagers: the Gatekeepers.

The Five must find each other and make a final stand against Chaos, King of the Old Ones … but Chaos is everywhere. He calls to them from Antarctica where he is gathering his forces, preparing for a last battle in the frozen wasteland of Oblivion. And one of the Five has turned traitor. The others know that without him they cannot win.

Chaos beckons. Oblivion awaits.

Four years of waiting, and this is where it ends. With 668 pages–and with me not knowing what to say.

Did I like how it ended? Yes… and no. I enjoyed the book, the journey that each Gatekeeper took, and I really liked the vibe the book emanated–that no one was safe, and that there’s a possibility the story would end sourly for our heroes. Midway through the book, we already know the fate of one of our main characters–and it’s not disappointing.

What I really, really didn’t like though was the end.

There’s a reason why Holly, a character who first appears in this book, is the one telling the story of the last battle. And while I appreciate the effort author Anthony Horowitz makes in telling a good story, there was also a feeling that the bookenders did not come out naturally–that it was forced to start with Holly, and end with Holly.

I especially did not like the epilogue. Of how we find out what happens after the war. That last few pages really spoils my enjoyment for the whole book.

This is why I both liked and disliked the last book off The Power of Five series. Anthony Horowitz delivers a finale that really gives us readers what we want (and liked) from the series. But, at the same time, he gives us an ending that is just too clean.

I would have preferred it had author Horowitz ended the book without the epilogue. And then, maybe, release a companion book later on to detail what happened after the war. But without the epilogue we got

I really, really wish the epilogue did not exist.

And I still can’t move on from my extreme dislike of said epilogue. So let’s just cut away to what other people wrote about the end of The Power of Five series:
The Book Zone
Empire of Books
366 Books: My Year of Reading

Book: The House of Silk

"The House of Silk"

London, 1890. 221B Baker Street. A fine arts dealer named Edmund Carstairs visits Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson to beg for their help. He is being menaced by a strange man in a flat cap–a wanted criminal who seems to have followed him all the way from America. In the days that follow, Carstair’s home is robbed and his family is threatened. And then the first murder takes place.

The House of Silk brings Sherlock Holmes back wiht all the nuance, pacing, and almost superhuman powers of analysis and deduction that made him the world’s greatest detective, in a case depicting events too shocking, too monstrous, ever to appear in print…until now.

The House of Silk is the first Sherlock Holmes novel I’ve read that isn’t written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; and while this is Anthony Horowitz’s best work (among his books I’ve read, I mean), it doesn’t really feel like an authentic Holmes novel.

Don’t get me wrong: Horowitz does get the time period right, and more importantly, he doesn’t deviate from the established characters of either Holmes or Watson–although, I must say his Watson is a lot more sentimental than what I remember from the stories I’ve already read.

What really sets The House of Silk apart as not a Doyle-written Sherlock Holmes novel is that it’s written for today’s readers.

I’m not saying that the original stories of Sherlock Holmes are slow-paced. They’re not. But neither were they written with the mindset that a reader can and will put a book down if they don’t find it engaging. Books today are written to be far more accessible, and thus, there is more competition.

The House of Silk is a fine novel, and author Horowitz makes a great attempt at emulating the voice of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. But it is just that: an attempt. I think I would have enjoyed it more if the author had decided to give his own take on Sherlock Holmes–kind of like what Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss had done with their BBC drama series. Personally, I find the drama series more to my liking that the two blockbuster films featuring Robert Downey, Jr. because it’s more fresh and more interesting because of its new angle on the characters.

Then again, there’s the new Sherlock Holmes series Elementary that I feel took things too far. I love Lucy Liu, but John Watson should have stayed a guy. If they really wanted a strong female presence in the show, they could have chosen Mrs. Hudson (who is very bad-ass in her own way) or Irene Adler. But, I digress.

Going back to The House of Silk, it’s worth the price of the book and it is a fun read. But if you’ve already read a few of the original Sherlock Holmes novels, the challenge falls on not comparing this book to the ones Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote.

Reviews for Anthony Horowitz’s The House of Silk:
Visceral Observations
Rivers I Have Known
Vintage Frills
YouTube Review: Rawesome4815

Book: Scorpia Rising

"Scorpia Rising" by Anthony HorowitzAlex Rider wants his life back. But when you’re the world’s most successful spy, there’s only one way out. Alex’s final mission will be the deadliest of all. One bullet. One life. The end starts here.

Well, first of all, the end doesn’t start just here—it is already here. After having stayed 14 forever, Alex Rider has finally turned 15. And true to his promise, author Anthony Horowitz is retiring his most successful protagonist.

Going down memory lane, I remember picking up the first Alex Rider book as a lark. It was during the time when I didn’t really have a lot of time to read books, and I thought it was interesting enough. One book followed another, and though I was not really impressed with Ark Angel and Snakehead, I stuck with the series.

Scorpia Rising, I think, is the best of the whole series.

The main thing I liked about the book is how mature it was. Every action had a repercussion. Also, small details from previous books were brought up again. This book really did feel like an ending. It wasn’t just a “until the next time we meet” type of thing. Scorpia Rising definitely puts a period at the end of it all.

One of the strengths of the Alex Rider books, for me, has always been the characterization of the adults. We follow the story through Alex Rider’s eyes, so we don’t get a lot of glimpses into the lives of the adult characters. And when we do, we don’t get a look behind their thought process—we see them how Alex sees them. So I thought it was really beautiful how the small nuances Anthony Horowitz has put into each character was able to give them dimensions as the series went along.

Unlike in previous Alex Rider books which had the titular character being too much of hero, Scorpia Rising manages to weave a story that felt like it was natural progression of how a teenaged spy would react to what’s going on. The Alex Rider we see in this book is the most human of all the Alex Rider’s.

And what I like most about this particular book is how Alex doesn’t get into a scrape so dour and still survive without killing a person of his own volition.

Of course, with all these having been said, I have to wonder about the main villain’s mindset when he thought about his plan to bring down MI6 (the British Secret Service) and kill Alex Rider. A lot of it rested on everything going according to plan, and for people to behave how they were perceived to behave. One wrong move (or rather, a right one) from the protagonist and the whole evil scheme would’ve tumbled down. Do you think he had a back-up plan—just in case MI6 didn’t fall for his trap?

Then again, it’s a book. It’s not like I was going to walk away from finishing the book. I just had to settle with knowing that my favorite characters will all probably make it alive in the end. (Spoiler Alert: They don’t.)

Let’s see who else has written about Scorpia Rising already:
Books4Hearts
The Book Zone
Edifying and Edgy