(Contributed by Brian)
The Napoleon of Crime
‘The Napoleon of Crime’ is a reference made by Sherlock Holmes to his greatest adversary, Professor Jim (short for James) Moriarty. Created by the author Arthur Conan Doyle, Moriarty was seen to be the ultimate enemy for Holmes.
Sherlock Holmes was a great detective, with fantastic powers of observation; he was able to see patterns and solutions to problems that other people would have not have considered. As such when Arthur Conan Doyle wished to end the life of the famous detective, he did so by creating a supreme adversary.
Moriarty has, by all definitions, the same characteristics as Holmes, but lacks chiefly the morality to use them for good, instead favouring power and wealth. He is a genius and has notable excelled in his field of mathematics, which he has gained a professorship. The university that he was rumoured to be lecturing, by fans and writers alike, was Durham, which is a very prestigious university in the North of England; from here Moriarty had enough reputation to lecture and also conduct his criminal affairs, whilst being incognito as a professor of mathematics; his anonymity was essential to his operations.
Moriarty is one of the very few adversaries who has met his pursuer head on. He ventures to Holmes flat at 221B Baker Street and offers the ultimatum to stop interfering in his affairs or be destroyed. Holmes refuses resulting in Moriarty placing all his resources into killing him and see the hero being pursued over Europe. Eventually the sorry state of affairs ends with the pair above a waterfall. They fight and throw each other into the Reichenbach Falls (a real place in Switzerland) seemingly to their deaths.
This is where Conan Doyle wanted to end the tale having Holmes sacrifice himself for the greater good, however, this was not the case as an enraged British public demanded that Holmes be brought back from the dead. He subsequently resurrected Holmes and the Victorian public were greatly appreciative of the fact.
There have been many reimaginings of Moriarty including in the TV series “Elementary” where the character is given a female persona along with a female Dr Watson, Holmes’s trusty assistant (again usually male in the books and other imaginings). In the Graphic novel series “The League of extraordinary gentleman”, author Alan Moore changed the events at Reichenbach so Holmes died and Moriarty survived. Moriarty now with his trademark signature, ‘M’ is not only a criminal mastermind who brought the league together, but is also the head of British Intelligence (MI5).
Quintessentially, Moriarty was, and arguably is the archetypical mastermind villain. Even though he only appears in three stories, one by reference, the other by being the mastermind figure, and finally as a desperate criminal trying to hold on to his empire; he has made a definite impression upon me and the crime writing lexicon for his cool and calculating nature that juxtaposes Holmes’s character beautifully. A truly memorable villain.
Verbose Vocabulary roundup: What those tricky words mean…
quintessentially: Representing the most perfect example of a quality of a person or thing.
mastermind: A person with an awesome / large intellect.
adversary: an enemy.
incognito: To be in disguise or assume a false identity.
lexicon: ‘The vocabulary of a single person or branch of knowledge.’
resurrected: Brought back to life from the dead.
juxtapose: Things that are placed close together for a contrasting effect.
archetypical: a very common example of a person or thing.
verbose: Using more words than are needed in writing or speech.