Scotland Yard inspector returns in ‘Moriarty’ novel

“Moriarty” by Anthony Horowitz (Harper, 304 pages, $26.99)

Meet the new Athelney Jones. Version 2.0.

He’s a Scotland Yard inspector who originally appeared in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s second Sherlock Holmes novel. In 1890’s “The Sign of Four,” Jones cluelessly arrested the wrong man on suspicion of murder, only to be soundly humiliated when Holmes solved the mystery with his usual theatrical flair.

England’s celebrated consulting detective is nowhere to be found in Anthony Horowitz’s fiendishly clever new thriller, “Moriarty.” But Athelney Jones has returned, and, not one to accept defeat, he is a changed man.

He has read all of Dr. Watson’s Strand Magazine stories. He has carefully studied all of Holmes’ scientific monographs about bloodstains, codes, tobacco ash and more. He has met with other inspectors who worked alongside the great detective and picked their brains for insights about his methods.

Inspector Jones is a wannabe Sherlock Holmes – and it would appear his time to shine is here.

Holmes and the notorious Professor Moriarty, the Napoleon of crime, have just met their deaths at the Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland. (Readers familiar with the canon know that Holmes merely faked his demise, but the world mourns his loss in April 1891.)

There’s also a new villain who has arrived from America, one far more ruthless than Moriarty ever was. He intends to take over as London’s ultimate crime boss. Jones becomes convinced it is his duty, with an assist from Frederick Chase, plodding Pinkerton detective and the book’s narrator, to thwart this new scoundrel.

Thus begins a rollicking adventure with Jones breathlessly racing about London – sometimes in disguise – as he tries to solve a horrific murder case while fulfilling his fantasy of playing Sherlock Holmes.

To his credit, he is quite brilliant. His powers of observation and deduction sometimes border on the magical. But success has gone to his head. He has adopted Holmes’ infuriating tactic of withholding important information from colleagues until it’s time to make the big, showboating reveal.

Is Jones half as smart as he likes to think he is?

It is hardly a spoiler to say that Moriarty is a story in which a huge surprise awaits readers.