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Literature / The Infernal Device

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The Infernal Device is a 1978 novel by Michael Kurland featuring Sherlock Holmes' nemesis Professor Moriarty as an Anti-Hero. It was nominated for an Edgar award.

It has four sequels: Death by Gaslight (1982), The Great Game (2001), The Empress of India (2006), and Who Thinks Evil (2014).


This series contains examples of:

  • Amnesiac Liar: In The Empress of India, Sherlock Holmes manages to do it to himself. He has a secret identity as a criminal, as a way of keeping an eye on the criminal underworld. When he suffers a Tap on the Head and wakes up in this lair, he deduces that this is his true identity, and proceeds to become a successful criminal.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
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    • Moriarty, to no one's great surprise.
    • Cecily Perrine.
    • In The Empress of India, Margaret St. Yves and Peter Collins bond over their mutual snark.
  • Defective Detective: Sherlock Holmes is portrayed as rather more defective than in the original series, especially when it comes to analyzing matters involving Prof. Moriarty himself.
  • Demoted to Extra: The Barnetts after The Great Game.
  • Devil in Plain Sight: Count D'Hiver in Death by Gaslight.
  • Discriminate and Switch: Early in The Great Game, we meet a pawnbroker and moneylender who complains about being constantly on the receiving end of antisemitism. Except that he isn't Jewish...
  • Expy: Moriarty for Holmes, Benjamin Barnett for Watson, Cecily Perrine for Mary Morstan, and the Mendicants for the Baker Street Irregulars. Moriarty also has his own version of Irene Adler.
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  • Hypocritical Humor: Moriarty, sneering at Holmes' Defective Detective personality, remarks that Holmes has remained a bachelor. Cue Barnett pointing out that so has Moriarty. The good professor has to concede the point.
  • Just Like Robin Hood: Although Moriarty doesn't work for free, he's also not committing crimes For the Evulz, either, and some of his activities are intended to help right other crimes that the law doesn't touch.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: The Barnetts want children, but as of The Great Game, Cecily has had two miscarriages. By the time of Who Thinks Evil, set several years later, they're still childless.
  • Master of Disguise: Moriarty. Holmes' efforts in this respect become a Running Gag.
  • Not So Different: The Infernal Device makes this point about Holmes and Moriarty: by and large, they're the same person on different sides of the law. That being said, the novels represent Moriarty as a more stable personality than Holmes.
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  • Number of the Beast: In Death by Gaslight, the members of the Hellfire Club carry tokens that read DCLXVI. Professor Moriarty helpfully reads from Revelation 13.
  • One-Letter Name: Moriarty's housekeeper, Mrs. H.
  • Perspective Flip: Moriarty is portrayed as a long-suffering antihero/hero who patiently endures Holmes' delusions about the extent of his "criminal empire".
  • Status Quo Is God: Moriarty and Holmes wind up working together in every novel, but Holmes' opinion of Moriarty at the end always remains unchanged.
  • Servile Snarker:
    • Moriarty's servants Mr. Maws and Mummer Tolliver.
    • Djuna in The Empress of India.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist: Holmes is the private version of this in the Moriarty novels. Lestrade averts the trope, as he usually rolls his eyes whenever Holmes goes off on a Moriarty tangent.
  • Sympathetic Murderer: Chardino in Death by Gaslight. Lampshaded by Moriarty, who thinks that the best road to justice would be allowing the killer to keep going, and who also doesn't stop Chardino from setting off a bomb that kills twenty-six more people at the end. Even Holmes has to agree.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Several times with Holmes and Moriarty.
  • Villain Protagonist: Deconstructed. Moriarty is a crook when the need arises, but he's as honorable as Holmes.
  • Worthy Opponent: Holmes sees Moriarty this way. Moriarty usually doesn't return the compliment, although he does express genuine admiration for Holmes' skill in The Great Game.

Alternative Title(s): Death By Gaslight

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