A Sherlockian pastiche without Holmes and Watson? Yes indeed, and it’s a tour de force quite unlike any other fruit from these densely plowed fields.
It is 1891. Holmes and professor James Moriarty are both presumed dead after hurtling over Reichenbach Falls, though the only body that’s been recovered is thought to be that of a chef at the Englischer Hof. The Pinkerton Detective Agency has sent operative Frederick Chase to England to investigate rumors that Clarence Devereux, fresh from his triumphantly lucrative scheme to manipulate stock prices by sending false information over Western Union wires, has come to join Moriarty in an Anglo-American criminal empire—and, finding the Napoleon of crime deceased, has stayed to become his successor. Joining forces with DI Athelney Jones, whose admiration of Holmes is just this side of idolatry, Chase tries to trace the agoraphobic Devereux through his lieutenants Edgar and Leland Mortlake and safecracker Scotchy Lavelle. The only results of their search are a series of violent reprisals, and when they finally catch up with Devereux at a function hosted by American legate (and president’s son) Robert Todd Lincoln, he turns the tables on them with insolent ease, leaving them both scurrying to hang on to their jobs. Since Jones talks and acts just like Holmes and Chase is every bit as enterprising as Dr. Watson, they seem likely to run their quarry to earth, with pauses along the way for lightning deductions and a drastically compressed sequel to “The Red-Headed League.” But canny Sherlock-ian Horowitz (The House of Silk, 2011, etc.) still has more tricks up his sleeve.
Readers who aren’t put off by the Hollywood pacing, with action set pieces less like Conan Doyle than the Robert Downey Jr. movies, are in for a rare treat, a mystery as original as it is enthralling.