MICHAEL KURLAND – The Empress of India

St. Martin’s Minotaur; hardcover. First Edition: February 2006.

Empress of India

   On and off over the period of nearly 30 years, Kurland has been chronicling the adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ most notorious nemesis, James Moriarty. In the process his primary intents seems to have been to clean some of the tarnish off the good (or not so good) professor’s reputation.

   Not that Holmes was entirely mistaken about him, but could it just possibly be that Moriarty was NOT responsible for all of the crimes Holmes suspected him of committing?

   Take this latest case, for example. When a fortune in gold is known to be on its way to the Bank of England from India, and Moriarty is known to be on the way to Calcutta, what other reason could he have other than the most obvious one? Wrong. Admittedly he has nefarious intent, but the gold is not why he is there.

   While Holmes himself has mysteriously disappeared, swept away in a London sewer, Thuggees seem to have re-emerged as an evil force in India, and Dr. Pin Dok Low and his gang of unsavory associates really do have gold on their minds.

   While Kurland is not terribly convincing when writing in the mode of Doyle, when he is left to tell his own rollicking story, what a glorious romp of a tale it is! His quick breezy style, interspersed with small jabs of wry humor, makes this particular caper move along in fine smile-provoking fashion.

   That there is also a locked room mystery to be solved is only the frosting on the cake.

— March 2006

FOLLOWUP: Rather than expand upon my (of necessity) shorter than usual review, which first appeared in the Historical Novels Review, I’ve decided to take a look instead at the complete list of Michael Kurland’s mystery and detective fiction, as much (as always) for my own benefit as yours, as many of these books I’d never been fully aware of until now.

   I’ll be working in somewhat chronological order, but also grouping the novels by theme and series character, with some comments or two scattered between. Not included are Kurland’s science fiction and fantasy novels with no criminous connection, but perhaps The Unicorn Girl (Pyramid, pbo, 1974) deserves a mention, as it partially takes place in the same alternative universe as Lord Darcy, about whom, keep reading.


Mission: Third Force. Pyramid R-1578, pbo, 1967.
Mission: Tank War. Pyramid X-1876, pbo, 1968.
Mission: Police Action. Pyramid, pbo, 1969. [Scarce. No copies on ABE. It is quite possible that the book was never published.]     [UPDATE: This is correct. According to Mr. Kurland, the book became A Plague of Spies instead.]

Third Force

   I have a copy of the second of these, but as usual, I don’t have it at hand and available for inspection. Here is a description taken from an online listing, however, one that will give you the essence of what kind of spy thrillers all three books are likely to be:

    “Are you a little country with BIG trouble? WAR, Inc. will – develop your weapons – train your troops – plan your strategy – and even fight your wars! Peter Carthage of WAR, Inc. races to Asia on a crash-priority mission – find a way to stop a guerrilla army terrorizing a tiny, independent kingdom. But there’s a joker in the contract – a hidden party to the conflict – and Carthage and his WAR, Inc. team are in the fight of their lives against the mysterious, deadly Third Force.”

   It is not known if Peter Carthage, the “Man from WAR” is in either of the other two books or not. If he is, he is a series character not (yet) known to Al Hubin.     [UPDATE: Peter Carthage is indeed in all three books, the third being the one below.]

A Plague of Spies. Pyramid X2098, pbo, 1969. [Finalist for Edgar award.]

   Described by one bookseller as a “sexy spy thriller.”


The Professor Moriarty / Sherlock Holmes novels:

The Infernal Device. Signet J8492, pbo, January 1979. [Finalist for an Edgar and nominated for an American Book Award.]

Death by Gaslight. Signet AE1915, pbo, December 1982.

The Great Game. St. Martin’s, hc, August 2001.
      St. Martin’s, trade pb, February 2003.

The Great Game

Publisher’s info on the latter:

    “In March 1891, an unknown caller arrives at Moriarty’s door on a matter of great urgency. But before Moriarty can be summoned to speak with him, he is shot by a crossbow bolt loosed by unseen hands. While a lesser man might be daunted, Moriarty is merely intrigued and begins to investigate. What Moriarty discovers is that a cabal is attempting to use assassination to destablize the rule of the crowned heads of Europe. But he also senses that there is more than this operating — a conspiracy within a conspiracy — and detects the workings of a mind possibly more clever than his own. Using his agents around the world, Moriarty must outwit his most clever opponent ever while the fate of the world hangs in the balance.”

The Infernal Device and Others. St. Martin’s, trade pb, August 2001.

Publisher’s info on the contents:

   The Infernal Device – A dangerous adversary seeking to topple the British monarchy places Moriarty in mortal jeopardy, forcing him to collaborate with his nemesis Sherlock Holmes.

   Death by Gaslight – A serial killer is stalking the cream of England’s aristocracy, baffling both the police and Sherlock Holmes and leaving the powers in charge to play one last desperate card: Professor Moriarty.

   “The Paradol Paradox” – The first new Moriarty story in almost twenty years, it has never before appeared in print.

The Empress of India. St. Martin’s, hc, February 2006.


The Last President, with S. W. Barton. William Morrow, hc, 1980.
      Critics Choice Paperbacks/Lorevan Publishing, pb, June 1988.


Psi Hunt. Berkley 04664, pbo, September 1980.
Star Griffin. Doubleday, hc, March 1987.

   Science-fiction crime novels both, taking place in the future as constituted at the time of their writing.


Ten Little Wizards. Ace 80057, pbo, March 1988.

MICHAEL KURLAND Study in Sorcery

A Study in Sorcery. Ace 79092, pbo, May 1989.

MICHAEL KURLAND Study in Sorcery

   The detective of record in both of these novels is Lord Darcy, a character created by SF author Randall Garrett. Darcy is a private security expert and chief investigator for Richard, Duke of Normandy, in an alternate world from ours in which magic takes the role of science. Garrett wrote one novel and several short stories about Lord Darcy, and after Garrett’s death, Kurland wrote the final two adventures.


Too Soon Dead. St. Martin’s Press, hc, March 1997.
The Girls in the High-Heeled Shoes. St. Martin’s Press, hc, August 1998
       St. Martin’s Press, trade pb, August 2001.

   A traditional mystery series set in New York City in 1935, featuring New York World columnist Alexander Brass.

Too Soon Dead


   And I’d certainly be remiss if I failed to include the Holmes-related anthologies edited by Kurland:

My Sherlock Holmes: Untold Stories of the Great Detective. St. Martin’s Press, hc, February 2003. Stories about Holmes but told by characters from the canon other than Dr. Watson.
      St. Martin’s Minotaur, trade pb, November 2004.

The Hidden Years

Sherlock Holmes: The Hidden Years. St. Martin’s Minotaur, hc, November 2004. An anthology of original stories taking place while Holmes was believed dead after Reichenbach Falls.
      St. Martin’s Griffin, trade pb, January 2006.