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Empress of India: A Professor Moriarty Novel    by Michael Kurland order for
Empress of India
by Michael Kurland
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2006 (2006)
* * *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

In early 1890, the Bank of England needs help. A shipment of gold (in exchange for newly minted paper currency) will be coming to London from India on board The Empress of India, and all sorts of potential problems stand in the way of a successful (and uninterrupted) transfer. So, of course, the bank's officials turn to the one person in the world who can be relied upon to prevent any criminal interference: Sherlock Holmes.

As Holmes prepares for the case, he does a little preliminary investigating. After all, the security of the Bank of England was compromised previously when someone gained access by coming up into the bank from the sewer tunnels beneath the building. However, in the course of his enquiries, Holmes disappears in an accident (or is it because of criminal activity?) when he is swept away in a torrential flood within one of the sewer tunnels beneath the Bank of England's facilities. Nothing other than some of Holmes' tattered and drenched clothing was found after the incident.

Now with Holmes missing and presumed dead, his indefatigable nemesis Professor James Moriarty enters into (and dominates) the action. For his own reasons, Moriarty quickly makes plans to leave England and go to India where it will take passage on The Empress of India. By exercising his ingenious criminal mind, it is there that Moriarty seems to be planning a singular crime that is surprisingly (and apparently) unrelated to the shipment of 4 million pounds worth of gold. And as for the gold itself, without Holmes on the job, and with a fascinating cast of respectable (and not so respectable) characters on board The Empress of India, even the most elaborate security measures may not be sufficient to protect the Bank of England's assets.

But, at this point, I cannot say more except to say this: Michael Kurland has done it again! As author of 40 other works (including 3 Professor Moriarty novels and 2 Sherlock Holmes anthologies), Kurland consistently delights readers with highly entertaining, well-written books. The Empress of India, more than being a mere mystery featuring Moriarty rather than Holmes, is filled with historical and cultural details (especially focusing upon life in British-colonized India at the end of the 19th century); moreover, Kurland's novel is a fast-paced tale of an impossible crime (complicated by unlikely allies versus unlikely foes engaged in an absorbing quest for a seductive prize). This is quite simply a baffling mystery with a solution that will absolutely floor readers! So, travel aboard The Empress of India and see if you can solve this recommended mystery.

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