The Christmas Pick: Steve Cavanagh Recommends

Orion debut novelist Steve Cavanagh is as starry-eyed as we are about Moriarty, the brand new novel from Anthony Horowitz. For Steve, the excitement started many Christmases ago . . .

Sherlock Holmes is synonymous with Christmas. You can usually find repeats of the fantastic Jeremy Brett series over the holiday period, and I understand that this year we might even be treated to a Sherlock Christmas special.

I can remember many years ago receiving a small collection of Conan Doyle’s stories in a gift box on Christmas morning. With the exception of finding an Atari games console (and no, it didn’t run on gas – cheeky) in my stocking the following year, it probably ranks as one of my most treasured gifts. I would’ve been around eight or nine years old at the time, and I can remember reading those stories late into the long winter nights, completely gripped by the adventures.

This is a not uncommon tale. I wasn’t overly surprised to hear that a young Anthony Horowitz received a similar gift one Christmas, and that the power of Conan Doyle’s storytelling produced an identical reaction in young Master Horowitz. Reading those stories as children may have been a factor in leading Mr Horowitz and I eventually to become writers ourselves – it was most certainly the case for me.

Sadly, here the similarity between me and Anthony Horowitz ends. Principally because, well, how can I put it? He’s Anthony Horowitz! One of the most gifted storytellers working today.

I absolutely loved his first addition to the Holmes canon, The House of Silk, and have been waiting eagerly for Moriarty. As you might expect, it’s utterly brilliant. This time we don’t have Holmes and Watson as our guides, but two equally compelling protagonists in the shape of Pinkerton Agent Frederick Chase and Scotland Yard’s Athelney Jones (a faithful student of the great detective’s methods).

Fans will know that Conan Doyle was a huge admirer of the Pinkerton Detective Agency (which has given us a few good writers as well – Dashiell Hammett, anyone?) and that he once met Allan Pinkerton and some of his detectives, one of whom appears as a thinly disguised character in The Valley of Fear, a Holmes story which references Moriarty and is set before the showdown with the arch-villain in The Final Problem.

In this offering from Horowitz, he picks up the action from the end of The Final Problem: Holmes is dead, having plunged to his doom from the Reichenbach Falls, locked in mortal combat with his nemesis, Moriarty. However, it appears to Messrs Chase and Jones that the game is still afoot.

Moriarty weaves itself indelibly into the fabric of the Holmes stories. It is delivered with plentiful Holmesian accuracy, and is written with enough pace, verve and trademark twists to keep even the casual reader turning the pages into the wee small hours.

Giving a book to a loved one, as a gift, can be a delicate and difficult enterprise. However, there is one choice that is a sure-fire hit – Moriarty. I’ll be rereading it this Christmas, and, I imagine, enjoying it for many Christmases to come.

Steve Cavanagh practises civil rights law and has been involved in several high-profile cases. His debut novel, The Defence, is out in March 2015. Find out more at Steve’s website or follow him on Twitter.