Thursday, 12 January 2012

The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz

There was a time when it seemed that Christmas and Sherlock Holmes went hand-in-hand in my life. Every year Santa would bring me a new Holmes hardback written by some up-and-coming new mystery writer, and I would devour it during the quiet days before New Year.  In fact, one of my favourite Christmas gifts ever was a book of Holmesian Christmas stories.

At some point, I guess my interests moved on, and Holmes and I grew apart. Santa brought me other treasures. But this year, during my post-Christmas trip to London, I spied The House of Silk, shining on a bookseller’s shelf, proudly proclaiming itself to be ‘The New Sherlock Holmes Novel’. I immediately decided to pay full-price. An uneconomical, but very good decision.  The next day, I was back in the foggy streets of Victorian London with my favourite detective.

Anthony Horowtiz is a pretty big name in Britain, both as a writer of childrens fiction and as the creator of several television detective series, but this is his first attempt at a mainstream Holmes novel. As one might expect of someone of his writing calibre, he turns in a very strong debut.

I don’t want to give away too much of the plot to potential readers, but there are a couple of points that I believe are worth mentioning, and both relate to the tone of the novel. First, while the story is set during the height of Holmes’ career, it is being written down by an aged Watson during the First World War. Although Watson still writes with his usual flair, he occasionally digresses to the state of the country or the fates of his friends and family. Sometimes this lends the novel a sad tone that is slightly at odds with most of Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, but it will also likely bring a few smiles to old-time Holmes fans. Related to that idea is the central crime of the story, which some readers may find distasteful. While I’m sure it isn’t out of place in Victorian England, it feels very modern and topical.  Horowitz rides a very thin line in trying to bring something new to the genre, while keeping it a true Holmes story. For the most part, I think he succeeds admirably.

The novel opens with an interesting mystery which soon leads to a bigger one, and if Horowtiz perhaps offers a few too many clues early on, the reader is soon trailing well behind Holmes with regards to the bigger picture, which is as it should be.  There is a bit of a sag in the middle of the book, including one chapter that has no bearing on the greater story and only seems included to tick a box, but the novel quickly pulls itself up and goes charging into the end.  Also, the book includes some very witty dialog, including one Holmes and Watson exchange that had me laughing out loud.

If you are a fan of Sherlock Holmes and not afraid to looking beyond the original stories of Arthur Conan Doyle, then you will quite likely enjoy The House of Silk.

Note: Amazon currently has the hardback for the eye-opening price of £7.60!

Note to self: Pay more attention to new Holmes stories.

1 comment:

  1. I just finished this book, and I must say that as an avid fan of all things Holmes, I was impressed. Horowitz got everything right. The mystery was thrilling, and it sounded almost like Conan Doyle himself. I could not put it down. I spent an entire day of my life reading it, and I don't regret it, because this is arguably one of the best Holmes stories written ever by anyone (even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself: The Adventure of the Three Gables comes to mind.)