Literature / The Hound of the D'Urbervilles

Professor Moriarty: The Hound of the D'Urbervilles is a short story collection by Kim Newman. It purports to be the memoirs of Colonel Sebastian Moran, trusted subordinate to Sherlock Holmes's favourite criminal mastermind Professor Moriarty, from the day of their first meeting to that day of reckoning by the Reichenbach Falls. Moriarty and Moran are presented as a dark mirror of Holmes and his assistant/chronicler Dr Watson, living in similar circumstances and having adventures that echo the detective's famous cases (the title story being an obvious example). As is usual for Kim Newman, the stories feature guest appearances by many other fictional characters (the eponymous story again being an obvious example).

Some of the stories have been previously published, including "A Shambles in Belgravia". Others, including the final story, are new to this collection.

  • Preface: by Professor Christina Temple of Birkbeck College, explaining how the manuscript came to light.
  1. A Volume in Vermillion: Colonel Moran takes employment with Professor Moriarty, and Moriarty is approached by a corrupt Mormon elder to deal with a group of fugitives from their brand of justice.
  2. A Shambles in Belgravia: The opera singer Irene Adler hires Moriarty to retrieve a set of photographs depicting her knocking about with a certain European nobleman.
  3. The Red Planet League: After a prominent astronomer publicly mocks Moriarty's magnus opus, The Dynamics of an Asteroid, declaring that the chances of anything coming from Mars are higher than the possibility that Moriarty's theory is accurate, Moriarty plots a terrible revenge.
  4. The Hound of the D'Urbervilles: The new heir to the estate of the D'Urbervilles is having trouble with uppity peasants and a mysterious and murderous blood-red hound, and hires Moriarty to sort them out.
  5. The Adventure of the Six Maledictions: Mad Carew, late of Her Majesty's Army, stole a holy artifact in Nepal and wants Moriarty to save him from the attendant curse. Moriarty's solution begins with seeking out five more cursed artifacts, including The Jewel of Seven Stars and The Maltese Falcon.
  6. The Greek Invertebrate: Moriarty's brother drags him into a complicated tangle involving a giant worm and a group of psychic investigators who are none of them what they appear.
  7. The Problem of the Final Adventure: Moriarty's archenemy is on the verge of bringing his criminal empire down. Drastic measures are called for. "You know how this ends. Someone goes over a waterfall."

This book provides examples of:

  • Affably Evil: Moran, most of the time.
  • Ascended Extra: Basically everybody. Moran gets like three lines in Holmes canon, but here he's narrator and main character. Likewise, Moriarty never even appears directly in canon, only in second-hand accounts from Holmes and Lestrade. Irene Adler also gets a little more time here (and plays a fairly important role in the last story), along with many other minor characters from Holmes stories.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Sir Nevil Airey Stent in "The Red Planet League".
    • Jasper Stokeville in "The Hound of the D'Urbervilles".
    • Moriarty in "The Problem of the Final Adventure".
  • Badass Bookworm: Moriarty, although Moran is quite intelligent himself.
  • The Beastmaster: Sorrow Durbyfield and his six wolves.
  • Bodyguard Betrayal: How Moriarty dies.
  • The Brute:
    • Dan'l serves as this to Jasper Stoke.
    • The Hoxton Creeper is this to Queen Tera.
  • Celebrity Paradox: Many of Professor Temple's helpful historical footnotes refer to fictional works, such as Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, as if they were factual historical accounts — including one of Newman's own Diogenes Club stories, which Temple dismisses as "fanciful".
  • Celebrity Resemblance: Dame Philomela Box, the inheritor of Moran's manuscript in the frame story, is a tall, unnaturally thin woman with a Skunk Stripe.
    The newspapers had made a lot out of Dame Philomela's resemblance to a Disney cartoon villainess. I wondered if she didn't cultivate the effect.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: The earliest stories are comedies, with lots of broad parody, but the book as a whole has a gradual arc toward a more sombre, reflective tone.
  • Character Tics: Moriarty's neck movements, which he seems completely unaware of (established in his brief description in The Final Problem).
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: The Hoxton Creeper is apparently unkillable thanks to this.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • In "The Hound of the D'Urbervilles", Moriarty is dissecting an Amati violin, which Moran believes he bought solely to spite another bidder—probably the Thin Man—but at the end of the story, it's shown he had a purpose after all.
    • The air gun Moriarty gives Moran for his birthday. Moran winds up murdering Moriarty with it at Reichenbach Falls, despite what Watson tells you...
  • Cigar-Fuse Lighting: In "The Six Maledictions", it's noted of Irish revolutionary bomber Tyrone Mountmain that if he's smoking a cigar, his dynamite is ready to hand.
  • Colonel Kilgore: Moran is this, a talented soldier and fairly smart man who also has very few morals, he basically just enjoyed killing people and after being mauled during a tiger hunt, he's sent back to England and basically forced out of the army. He's a classic Blood Knight who takes to murder for hire quite well once he starts working for Professor Moriarty.
  • Cool vs. Awesome: "The Adventure of the Six Maledictions" features a yeti fight the Hoxton Creeper.
  • Combat Haircomb: Ilse von Oberstein has a haircomb that's really a dagger.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Used both within the story itself (as a parody of the kinds of Victorian/Edwardian travel memoirs popular at the time) and in-universe as a part of the framing device. Prof. Temple draws attention to Moran's racism and homophobia in the introduction and endnotes, although she takes pains to note that Moran "especially loathed straight white male British Christians."
  • Disguised Hostage Gambit: Mabuse uses this to trick Moran into shooting an agent of Box Brothers in a bank in Switzerland.
  • The Dragon:
    • Moran for Moriarty, with Sophy Kratides later sharing the role.
    • Nakszynski for Jasper Stoke.
  • The Dreaded: While Moriarty has nothing but contempt for the Thin Man (i.e. Sherlock Holmes) and considers him an easily duped pawn at best, even he is intimidated by the Thin Man's brother, the Fat Man (i.e. Mycroft Holmes).
  • Dreadful Musician: Irene Adler, according to Moriarty and Moran.
  • End of an Age: Moriarty gives a speech about this in "The Problem of the Final Adventure", but there's a more serious version in "The Greek Invertebrate," where the Forgotten Superweapon (Greek Fire) foreshadows World War I.
  • Enemies List: Sir Nevil Airey Stent has a List of other astronomers whose careers he intends to crush to bolster his own superiority.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Moran is disgusted by Colonel Moriarty's ideas of modern warfare in "The Greek Invertebrate." In "The Problem of the Final Adventure," Moriarty is either shocked or appalled (or both) that Mabuse would dare get at him through his brothers. Moriarty is undoubtedly shocked, however, at Mabuse's use of his orderly, "mathematical" approach to crime to spread chaos.
  • Evil Albino: Nakszynski, the hired gunman who "once ate a Canadian mounted policeman's liver" in "The Hound of the d'Urbervilles."
  • Evil Counterpart: Kim Newman loves this trope. A major theme of "The Problem of the Final Adventure" is the rise of opponents (good counterparts?) for the world's criminal masterminds. Irene actually refers to Watson as being in thrall to an "angelic mastermind," while Moran mentions that Holmes has the "Moriartian trait" of not sharing anything with his second-in-command.
  • Evil Laugh: Moriarty rarely laughs, and when he does, it terrifies everyone around him (Moran included).
    Pigeons fell dead three streets away. Hitherto-enthusiastic customers in Mrs Halifax's rooms suddenly lost ardour at the worst possible moment. Vampire squid waved their tentacles. I quelled an urge to bring up my mutton lunch.
  • Evil Versus Evil: How do you get away with having a criminal mastermind and a murderous womanizing misanthrope as the protagonists? At least partly by crossing their paths with other people who are at least as unpleasant as they are.
  • External Retcon: There was a lot more going on during "The Final Problem" than Watson ever knew.
  • Expy: Prof. Moriarty as this for Holmes, Col. Moran for Watson, Mrs. Hallifax for Mrs. Hudson, the Conduit Street Comanche for the Baker Street Irregulars, and Col. Moriarty for Mycroft Holmes.
  • False Reassurance: Moriarty gives one to a client who stiffs him on the bill once the danger appears to be over. He promised Carew that he wouldn't be killed the priests of the yellow god; he didn't say anything about being killed by somebody else first...
  • Femme Fatale: Many characters, including Irene Adler, Queen Tera, and Sophy Kratides.
  • Footnote Fever: Dr. Temple's comic footnotes include faked academic essays in real journals, amusing asides about Moran, and, more helpfully, explanations for the reader about what is being parodied when.
  • For the Evulz: Moran talks about how much fun and excitement crime can provide, unlike Moriarty, who simply pursues crime as a function of mathematics because he doesn't care for anyone's laws or morals but his own.
  • Foregone Conclusion:
    • "You know how this ends. Someone goes over a waterfall."
    • Despite various retcons, it is established very early in the book that Moran gets arrested for murder, as in "The Adventure of the Empty House".
  • Framing Device: The book is told as Moran's personal memoirs, recovered many decades later and published by an academic.
  • Freudian Excuse: Moriarty and Moran are both revealed to have had unhappy childhoods with unpleasant fathers. Moran's was the usual sort of unhappy childhood for a man of his period and social class; Moriarty's was uniquely horrible.
  • Great White Hunter: Moran's claim to fame.
  • The Gunslinger: Jim Lassiter, the American cowboy.
  • Historical-Domain Character: H. G. Wells has a cameo in "The Red Planet League".
  • I Call It "Vera":
    • Moran reminisces about a custom-made rifle he used to own named "Prometheus". He buried it after he was forced to use it as crutch while trekking injured out of the jungle.
    • Desperado Dan'l, The Brute to Jasper Stoke in "The Hound of the D'urbervilles", carries a heavy walking stick he calls "Gertie".
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: In "A Volume in Vermillion," Moran points out that Lassiter's reputation with a pistol is ridiculous: "With anything further away than a dozen yards, you might as well throw the gun as fire it." Lassiter still turns out to be Moran's match, though.
  • Irony: Throughout "The Problem of the Final Adventure", Moran and Moriarty are dismissive of Sherlock Holmes, and Moriarty is fixated on defeating his true archenemy, Dr. Mabuse. However, Holmes' efforts enable them to defeat Mabuse, and gets Moriarty killed, and then gets Moran arrested a few years later. Not bad for a "beaky, hectoring, drug addict."
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Moran has (thwarted) plans to kill one kid's annoying little dog.
    • At one point, Moriarty pins a kitten to the fireplace mantel as part of a drug experiment.
  • Knife Nut: Sophy Kratides and Nakszynski.
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo:
    • The Thin Man in Baker Street, and his brother, the Fat Man in Whitehall.
    • The Lord of Strange Deaths, and his daughter. Lampshaded in a footnote where Professor Temple says she knows his identity, "or at least the name he most commonly used", but has been warned that there are still people acting for him and it would be... inadvisable... to be spilling the beans.
  • Legion of Doom: They include Professor Moriarty, Colonel Moran, A.J. Raffles, and The Hoxton Creeper from Britain, Irene Adler and Jack Quartz from America, Arsène Lupin and Les Vampires from France, Rupert of Hentzau, Queen Tera of Egypt, Fu Manchu and Doctor Nikola from China, and Doctor Mabuse from Germany.
  • Mad Mathematician: Professor James Moriarty considers crime a logical extension of his mathematical research, specifically committing impossible crimes to conquer the impossible.
  • Massive Multiplayer Crossover: Of Victorian and Edwardian fiction. Starts small, with one crossover each in the early stories, and builds up to things like the six maledictions and a secret meeting of all the supervillains of the period.
  • Master of Disguise:
    • Mabuse.
    • Usually averted with Moriarty, whose successes in this area require people not to be paying much attention. Unlike Holmes, who often fooled Watson, Moriarty cannot stop his characteristic neck wobble and only fools Moran once, briefly.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Besides Moriarty, you've got Fu Manchu, Nikolanote , and Mabuse. And Jack Quartz, but there are some doubts as to his actual qualifications. Stent (while less evil) may also qualify, considering his obvious pleasure at ruining the careers of his colleagues on "the List."
  • Muscles Are Meaningless: Moriarty demonstrates in "A Volume in Vermilion" and "The Greek Invertebrate" that he's much, much stronger than he looks.
  • My Eyes Are Up Here: In her own inimitable style, Irene Adler says to Colonel Moran:
    "That's better. Look me in the lamps, Colonel."
  • Mythology Gag: Far too many to list individually.
  • Not His Sled: Two people are proposed as Moriarty's archenemy over the course of the book; neither is Sherlock Holmes, whom Moriarty never regards as more than an occasional nuisance.
  • Not So Different: In his contemptuous dismissal of the Thin Man, Moriarty at one point sneers about how immature and childish he is. In his narration, Moran notes that Moriarty going all the way to the Thin Man's home to essentially taunt and boast about his genius and invincibility, and then gloating about it and mocking at the Thin Man behind the Thin Man's back is itself a rather immature and childish thing to do.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: The mastermind in "The Hound of the D'Urbervilles".
  • One Steve Limit: Averted in "The Greek Invertebrate", which takes a famous continuity error from the Sherlock Holmes stories — in which Professor Moriarty and his brother Colonel Moriarty are both named James — and runs with it.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Colonel Moran, Jasper Stoke and Sorrow Durbyfield.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: While Moriarty and Moran both will sometimes do things For the Evulz, they also both do realize the advantages of pragmatism in crime. At different times, they both deliver lectures on the foolishness of committing crimes for idealistic causes, the unwisdom of stealing unique objects, and the importance of planning out one's crimes in advance. At one point Moriarty contemplates stealing the Crown Jewels of Britain, but instead of doing so, sells his plans to "a terrifying Fat Man in Whitehall" so that security on them may be improved. He considers going back to the well every so often with improved plans, but prefers not to risk the Fat Man's anger.
  • Precision F-Strike: An uncharacteristic one from Moriarty in "The Problem of the Final Adventure," when he realizes that they've been tricked into killing the wrong man.
    • Moran when Moriarty reveals himself in "The Hound of the D'Urbervilles." Immediately followed by an Oh Crap!, as Moriarty does not appreciate insults hurled his way.
  • Public Domain Character: Probably at least half of the characters in the book, including Moriarty and Moran.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: "The Problem of the Final Adventure" has both Moriarty and Moran deliver rather nasty ones about the Thin Man. Not directly to his face, but their contempt for him and everything he represents is made abundantly clear.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Moriarty has one of his underlings permanently shipped off to Alaska as a warning to another underling who had been disrespectful but is, for the moment, too valuable to be dispensed with himself.
  • Runaway Train: Moran and Moriarty find themselves on one in "The Greek Invertebrate".
  • Running Gag: Every time the Vampires, a notorious French criminal gang, is mentioned, they've just got a new leader after the previous one died violently. This is a shout-out to their film serial of origin, Les Vampires, which burns through at least three head Vampires in the course of its ten episodes.
  • Rushed Inverted Reading: In "The Problem of the Final Adventure", Moran notices that Irma Vep is reading The Times upside down in the dining room.
  • Sadist Teacher: Moriarty drives one of his former students insane in "The Red Planet League." According to Moran, he also "slowly put a youth to death for misplacing a decimal point."
  • Scary Shiny Glasses: The cover illustration depicts Moriarty as a sinister silhouette with a gleaming monocle. (There is no mention of any monocles in the book itself.)
  • Sherlock Scan: Inverted for parody; when Moran first meets Moriarty, Moriarty appears to do this to Moran, rattling off all kinds of facts about him without being able to know them. Moran snottily points out that he's aware of this kind of technique. Moriarty then slaps him and informs Moran that anyone who needs to rely on this kind of trickery is, in Moriarty's estimate, a fool; Moriarty had, of course, bought, bribed and otherwise swindled everything he knew about Moran from others.
  • Shoot the Hostage: Moran does this in "The Greek Invertebrate" after the creator of a new superweapon is taken hostage. What his adversary has failed to realise is that Colonel Moran is appalled by the new weapon and perfectly happy for the secret of its operation to die with its creator.
  • Shout-Out: Many, many, many. Each story is a shout out to a Holmes story, and also (at least) one other work or fictional character. A brief list:
    • "A Study in Vermillion" references A Study In Scarlet and Riders of the Purple Sage. Jim Lassiter, hero of the latter, is a target for Moriarty and Moran, and Moriarty sends a letter to Jefferson Hope which kicks off Study.
    • "A Shambles in Belgravia" features Irene Adler from "A Scandal in Bohemia" and concerns the fictional country of Ruritania, featured in The Prisoner of Zenda.
    • "The Red Planet League" is a reference to "The Redheaded League" (and shows John Clay turned away from Moriarty because he's busy with the story's plot—which gets Clay arrested in the Holmes story) and The War of the Worlds, but also features the appearance of Fu Manchu, and concerns Moriarty's book, Dynamics of an Asteroid, directly quoting Holmes' description of it and Moriarty from "The Final Problem".
    • "The Hound of the D'urbervilles" references Tess Of The Durbervilles, with the main villain (aside from Moriarty and Moran, of course) being Tess' son Sorrow, believed to be dead in the original work. It draws heavily on The Hound of the Baskervilles, with Moriarty secretly observing Moran in the field and only intervening at an opportune moment, much like Holmes does. The client in the case, having lived in America, mentions Tombstone, the Earps, and references "a certain corral".
    • "The Six Maledictions" is a brief reference to "The Six Napoleons", but also draws heavily from a number of other works, featuring Queen Tera/Margraet Trelawny from The Jewel of Seven Stars, Les Vampires, the titular bird and the Fat Man from The Maltese Falcon, as well as the Black Pearl and the Hoxton Creeper from the Sherlock Holmes movie The Pearl of Death (an adaptation of "The Six Napoleons"). The Firm's client, Mad Carew, is taken from the poem "The Green Eye of the Little Yellow God". This section also features many little shout outs from Moran in passing—he blames Rudyard Kipling for poems like the one about Carew and Kipling influenced its author in real life. He also mentions several gems, from the one that empowered Marvel's Juggernaut to The Moonstone, The Pink Panther, The Eye of Klesh from Night at an Inn, and more which might not even exist in fiction.
    • "The Greek Invertebrate", which introduces Moriarty's brothers, is a reference to "The Greek Interpreter", which introduced Mycroft Holmes. It also features a "fake fake" Carnacki, who is actually Dr. Mabuse, along with Sophy Kratides, who was also from the Holmes story. A German spy using the alias "Gabrielle Valladon" also makes an appearance. The same spy using the same alias later appears in The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.
    • "The Problem of the Final Adventure" features the most, from "The Final Problem" to foreshadowing Moran's own future playing (and cheating) at cards at the Bagatelle club, which gets him caught in "The Empty House". Dr. Mabuse, the Creeper, Irene, Sophy are all back, along with another Ruritanian, Rupert of Hentzau, Fu Manchu and his daughter, AJ Raffles, Countess Cagliostro, Doctor Nikola, Alraune, Madame Sara, Theophraste Lupin, and Princess Zanoni. The footnoes also mention Charles Augustus Milverton, another Holmes story, and postulates rampant speculation as to who Moriarty really was—everyone from Jack the Ripper to Hannibal Lecter to Kim Newman's own invention, Derek Leech (the footnote says some of those aren't real people, but doesn't say which). Moran also indirectly references Kafka's The Metamorphosis in discussing Mabuse.
  • Significant Anagram: Several characters in "The Red Planet League", particularly the purported King of the Martians, the Roi Marty.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Like many a modern character who is English and a criminal, Moran tends to curse a lot. It's mentioned he once won an Army/Navy swearing competition, cursing for more than thirty minutes straight.
  • Skunk Stripe: Dame Philomela Box has long black hair with a white streak. It's pointed out that, considering her age, it's likely to be a deliberate affectation achieved with black hair dye.
  • Spiders Are Scary: In "The Hound of the D'Urbervilles," Moran admits to arachnophobia.
  • Unpleasant Animal Counterpart: Professor Moriarty breeds wasps, this apparently being the evil equivalent of Sherlock Holmes becoming a beekeeper.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Moran seems somewhat more open than most, because he has no illusions about being a right bastard, but his dismissal of nearly everyone around him and general misanthropy mean one must take his words with a grain of salt. Moran also implies this about Watson, pointing out various things which are inconsistent in Watson's writings.
  • Wacky Americans Have Wacky Names: This is Moran's reaction on encountering Elder Enoch J. Drebber of Cleveland, Ohio:
    "Enoch J. Drebber - why d'you think Yankees are so keen on those blasted middle initials?"
  • We ARE Struggling Together: The Irish Republican Invincibles and the Irish Invincible Republicans in "The Six Maledictions". In the same story, Moran notes that socialist revolutionaries have the same problem:
    If [the Great Day of Revolution] has not yet dawned, it's because socialists are too busy exterminating each other to lead the rising masses to victory.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: The attitude generally taken toward the "Marsians". Moran notes that even people who "would be generally happier to see children whipped, starved, laughed at, shot and mounted in the Moran den than brook any abuse of their 'furry or feathered friends'" don't have any sympathy for things with tentacles.
  • Whole Plot Reference: All of the stories parody the Holmes canon, with Holmes (the Thin Man) and Mycroft (the Fat Man) occasionally appearing as a Hero of Another Story.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Moran, under the right circumstances. But as we see in the eponymous story, he's not impressed by men who beat up women for no reason.
  • World of Badass: Almost everyone in the series is one.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness:
    • Moriarty comments that the Thin Man's "usefulness is at an end," prior to meeting him at Reichenbach.
    • Moriarty also tells Moran that he intends to reweave his criminal web "unimpeded by fallible subordinates," which Moran, rightly or wrongly, interprets to mean that Moriarty is going to get rid of him.