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Literature / Professor Moriarty Series

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The Professor Moriarty Series is a group of three books (The Return of Moriarty, The Revenge of Moriarty, and Moriarty) by John Gardner, better known for being the first long-running James Bond continuator. In the books, Professor Moriarty turns out to be alive, having faked his death at the hands of Sherlock Holmes. He returns to London to rebuild his empire and ruin his rivals.

The first two books were published in 1974 and 1975, a year apart, but ''Moriarty'' came out in 2008, thirty-three years after the previous book. It was posthumously published a year after John Gardner's death.


  • Agonizing Stomach Wound: Michael the Peg takes about twenty minutes to die from a pistol shot to the stomach, and spends most of that time begging and raving as Moriarty coldly watches him die and refuses to let any of his men give Michael a Mercy Kill.
  • Asian Speekee Engrish: Chinese hoodlum Lee Chow, one of Moriarty's Co-Dragons, has trouble pronouncing many English words and prefers to speak in shorter sentences in a stereotypical fashion.
    Lee Chow: I got good ear. I hear much, no speakee until asked.
  • Been There, Shaped History: Moriarty kills Jack the Ripper because he is annoyed about how Jack's crimes have the police patrolling Moriarty's territory more than usual.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: The original Professor Moriarty is no criminal: just a particularly nasty Big Brother Bully turned respected academic. The Moriarty who becomes Sherlock Holmes's Arch-Enemy is the professor's youngest brother, who framed the professor for all sorts of wrongdoings to destroy his career, then killed him and stole his identity.
  • Death by Adaptation: Moriarty poisons an imprisoned Colonel Moran for mismanaging his empire within days of his arrest, even though canon stories establish that Moran is still alive but incarcerated years after his arrest.
  • Eaten Alive: At the end of Moriarty, the professor has the man who ordered the murder of a boy raised as his son (although unknown to Moriarty, they aren't related by blood) rubbed with fox body parts and then sics several hunting dogs on the man, who is promptly mauled to death.
  • Facial Horror: The daughter of one of Moriarty's men had acid thrown in her face by a Crazy Jealous Guy. Moriarty has Lee Chow pay said crazy jealous guy a visit and cut off his cheeks.
  • The Family That Slays Together: A whole family of career forgers (parents, six children, three grandparents, fifteen aunts and uncles, and twelve cousins) work for Moriarty's competitors in the first book. They are well-known in the underworld Moriarty's goons pay the family a visit in the middle of the night, wreck their tools, and break the hands of the three best forgers in the clan.
  • Florence Nightingale Effect: After being captured and tortured by rival gangsters, Moriarty's henchman Bert Spear falls in love with Bridget, the prostitute who his captors have tend to his wounds between torture sessions.
  • Great Escape: In the first book, Moriarty breaks the Jacobs Brothers out of jail at the request of their mother (and to get himself new loyal enforcers) by intimidating two of his rival kingpin's Mooks into agreeing to impersonate the Jacobs Brothers and serve out their sentences, with a corrupt guard arranging for the two pairs of men to switch places.
  • Greedy Jew: Jewish characters tend to be shady fences of stolen property.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: Sherlock Holmes's story about throwing Moriarty over Reichenbach Falls is a complete lie, which he made up due to how Moriarty brought three armed henchmen to his showdown with Holmes and gave him the choice between fighting all of them or faking both of their deaths.
  • Miss Kitty: Moriarty's mistress and confidant Sal is an aging (although not to the point where she can't concieve) brothel owner.
  • Nailed to the Wagon: In The Revenge of Moriarty, Moriarty tries to enforce a version of this trope that is not meant to help the addict by cutting off Sherlock Holmes's cocaine supply, hoping that the withdrawal will mentally destroy him. It turns out that Holmes secretly kicked his cocaine addiction some time ago, and he uses Moriarty's plan to lure the professor into a trap that he barely escapes.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here:
    • A corrupt policeman who served his time and got out of jail flees the country as soon as Inspector Crow interviews him and asks about Professor Moriarty's possible involvement in the scandal that got the ex-cop arrested.
    • In the climax of the first book, Moriarty's Number Two Pip Paget and his wife Fanny flee London after Moriarty's growing ruthlessness disgusts Pip, and Moriarty unintentionally gets Fanny implicated in a double murder.
  • Sexual Extortion: Fanny Jones (later Paget) is a former maid who had to put up with sexual harassment from the butler of her household or face being fired and thrown out onto the streets. After she finally stood up to him, he made good on his threat.
  • Shout-Out: At the beginning of the first book, criminals, people who feel wronged by criminals, and relatives of criminals all visit Moriarty to congratulate him on his return and ask favors of him, with the scene homaging Vito Corleone being asked forfavors at the beginning of The Godfather.
  • The Spymaster: Stealthy garroter Parker runs Moriarty's "lurkers", homeless people who prowl the city for information.
  • Thrown from the Zeppelin: Moriarty outsmarts and humiliates kingpins from Germany, Italy, and France to cow them into helping him form The Syndicate, then confronts The Don of Spain, has the others tell him about how they now see that spurning Moriarty was foolish and they want to join him. The Spanish boss still refuses to submit to Moriarty and bids the others a good day. A few minutes later, he dies in a carriage "accident" while departing from the meeting. Interestingly, all of those same crime lords had voluntarily joined Moriarty's organization in the previous book, but they betrayed and abandoned Moriarty during the Time Skip between books after a police investigation forced Moriarty to flee the continent and made him look weak.
  • Unexplained Recovery: The Spanish kingpin who is Thrown from the Zeppelin near the end of The Revenge of Moriarty returns alive and well to attend a criminal summit in the third book, without a word of explanation.
  • Villain Protagonist: Moriarty is an intelligent and charismatic man who has some standards (he hates child killers, stalkers, and sex-traffickers) and generally faces people worse than he is. However, he is also a satanist who tortures or murders many of his enemies, sometimes without giving less detestable ones the chance to switch sides, tries to destroy the lives of Sympathetic Inspector Antagonists, sometimes gets perfectly innocent people killed during his operations, and once executes a loyal (albeit stupid) employee just because the man's wife was a traitor.