The ending will be spoiled. If you don’t care, read. If you do, stop and pick up the book, it’s great.
I was thinking of the ending (the main character is Moriarty in disguise and has been the mastermind behind the plan to catch Devereux) and why it didn’t truly work for me, and I think I got it. It’s not so much the twist that bothered me; a similar twist was pulled off in “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd” by Agatha Christie, and I love that book. But there is one very, very important difference between that book and this one:
The villain lost.
We end this story with Jones dead, Holmes made to look a bit dim, and Moriarty getting ready to start a new criminal empire in America. It’s fine to have the Moriarty twist, flawed as it was. I can handle that. What’s NOT fine is to have Moriarty gain such a complete victory while shitting on the Holmes canon.
What Horowitz should have done was made the reveal, then before the book ends have Moriarty get outsmarted one last time, either by Jones or perhaps by Holmes himself. If Moriarty were defeated – if the bad guy lost, or at least suffered defeat (you don’t need to necessarily even kill Moriarty, but you can at least leave Jones alive and have him capture Devereux) – then the ending is much more satisfying. As is, I feel cheated; I was told the good guys had it in the bag, and then the rug was pulled out.
What is the message here? No matter what anybody does, evil is going to win?
Because, whether he intended to or not, that’s the message Horowitz sends. What a shame – he was just one or two changes away from turning a good book into a great one.