There are many spin-offs from the original Sherlock Holmes books. A ton of which focus on re-creating the style and prose of the originals; some which seek to parody and poke fun at them; and some which quite frankly should be burned at dawn. In The Hound of the D’Urbervilles Kim Newman creates one of the finest spin-offs of them all.
The book is a collection of short stories about the inner sanctum of Moriarty’s criminal underworld, narrated by Colonel Sebastian Moran. It runs broadly in parallel with the original stories by ACD and adds in some nice quirks, stories like The Problem of the Final Adventure take well kent stories and apply a different lens to them.
All of this is done from the viewpoint of a man who is part cad, part egomaniac. Moran is pretty much Flashman personified. He is unreliable, always after a poke and without doubt a disagreeable young chap. That said, he is also extremely funny and he makes for a fantastic narrator as he rip-roars his way through a number fantastic adventures, and gives us a very credible and interesting insight in to the inner-workings of Moriarty’s mind and ways. At least as Newman sees them.
Of course, it could be an easy mistake to think that Newman has simply taken Flashman, Moran and Moriarty and made herself a nice wee niche; not true. She expertly intertwines the classics like Hounds of the Baskervilles into her own original crimes and stories and makes for a very addition to 21st century Holmes collections which seems to grow and grow every day. There is a real stamp of class over the whole piece.
Moran is freer than his peer Watson in his use of coarseness and ungentlemanly language (for the time at least) and is presented as a case study is over-bearing parentage. It’s a fun way to see the London of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John H. Watson.