Narrator: Edward Petherbridge
Series: Sherlock Holmes & Lucy James #1
Published by self-published on April 1, 2016
Genres: Historical Mystery
Source: my personal collection
Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes & Noble | Audible
A lovely young American actress from the D'Oyly Carte Opera Troupe comes to 221B Baker Street on a cold November morning, desperately seeking assistance from Sherlock Holmes. Inexplicably, Holmes agrees to help, even though the Prime Minister of England and his cabinet need Holmes to solve a murder case that could threaten a high-stakes meeting with John D. Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan. The clock is ticking. Holmes will need all his physical and deductive powers to preserve innocent lives and prevent political and economic chaos on both sides of the Atlantic. Yet even Holmes cannot foresee how much the ultimate outcome will depend on a mother's sacrifice, a daughter's hopes, and on the true identity of the last Moriarty.
Like Holmes’s progenitor, Arthur Conan Dolye, Veley writes from Watson’s point of view. And for my money, he does a pretty good of channeling Watson’s narrative “voice”: Veley’s style, vocabulary, and phrasing feel genuinely Victorian. He also seems to have a good grasp of the two main characters’ personalities, from Holmes’s cool deliberation to Watson’s susceptibility to a pretty face.
My standard for Holmes pastiches is quite high, with Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell & Sherlock Holmes series standing at the pinnacle. While I don’t feel that The Last Moriarty rose to those heights, it’s still quite good. It’s comparable in quality to Nicholas Meyer’s books (as I remember them; I haven’t read them in at least 35 years), and better than many other “faithful” Holmes pastiches I’ve come across over the years. Certainly fans of the original canon should be quite comfortable with most aspects of this novel.
The book introduces several fictional and historical characters, and Veley does a good job of weaving them into his own story and, where necessary, the Holmes canon. The series title (“Sherlock Holmes and Lucy James”) makes it clear that Miss James, at least, will play a continuing and significant role (pun intended, since she is an actress), and I look forward to seeing how Veley incorporates her into into the subsequent novels. Will it be as an assistant, an apprentice, a friend or partner, or even an adversary? If not an adversary, it will also be interesting to see how the addition of a third person — in any role — affects the Holmes-Watson relationship.
Narration: I knew Edward Petherbridge from his excellent portrayal of Lord Peter Wimsey in the BBC’s production of Dorothy Sayers’s Wimsey-Vane mysteries, and to be honest, his narration was the main reason I decided to listen to this book rather than read it. And his reading here is very nearly perfect. His diction is precise and his interpretation excellent. He gives the characters distinct voices and accents without overdoing either, although his American accents may sound very faintly “off” to a discerning American ear, and his Italian accent didn’t quite ring true to me. Petherbridge has clearly read the original canon, in which Holmes’s voice is described as “high” and sometimes “cold,” and gives Holmes a cool, tenor quality. He is also able to voice the female characters convincingly, avoiding the common mistake of pitching them too high; while you don’t forget that a man is reading, you do not question that a woman is speaking.
I very much enjoyed this audiobook, and have already started listening to the next book in the series. I recommend The Last Moriarty to anyone who enjoys Sherlock Holmes mysteries, particularly the original canon. I do suggest you renew your acquaintance with the stories involving Moriarty first, particularly “The Final Problem” and “The Adventure of the Empty House.” But it’s not strictly necessary, and as long as you have at least a passing understanding of who Moriarty is, you should be fine.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- Audiobook Challenge 2019
- The Backlist Reader Challenge 2019