“This is quite simply one of the best detective mysteries I have read for a long time”
I’ve never read a Sherlock Holmes story. To be honest, they didn’t hold any particular appeal for me. Obviously I’ve seen the various films and TV versions, and mostly enjoyed them, but the books themselves? No thanks.
Anthony Horowitz has changed all that. I can’t wait to get stuck in to the originals – if they’re as good as The House of Silk, I’ve got a massive treat coming.
This book evokes a powerful sense of late-Victorian London. It is winter, 1890; handsome cabs clatter along the frosty, cobbled streets, gas lamps flare in the gloom, and telegram boys run to and fro with urgent messages.
At 221b Baker Street Holmes and Watson are taking tea by a roaring fire when Mrs Hudson, the faithful housekeeper, shows a clearly agitated gentleman in. He has a story to tell. He is being stalked by a menacing, scar-faced man who stares malevolently at him. It has been going on for weeks and their visitor is at the end of his tether. He begs Holmes for help.
‘The game’s afoot, Watson!’ And indeed it is. Horowitz spins an ever-more dramatic and dangerous story. What begins as a puzzle swiftly becomes a mystery with deeply sinister overtones. As Holmes and Watson become immersed in their investigations, they begin to hear the whispered words ‘the House of Silk’… what does the phrase mean? What links London’s foggy streets with the violent underworld that seethes in the American city of Boston?
This is quite simply one of the best detective mysteries I have read for a long time. Congratulations, Mr Horowitz. Can we have another one please?
“if Conan Doyle could come back from the grave… he would certainly give Horowitz a warm, if spectral, handshake”
Sherlock Holmes has recently returned to both the small and large screens, with Benedict Cumberbatch’s updated TV series and Robert Downey Jnr’s period movie, so this homage from Anthony Horowitz is timely.
The two key questions are: how faithful is it to Conan Doyle’s original, and is the story any good?
As a devoted Holmes fan – I’d read every single one of Conan Doyle’s stories by the time I was fifteen, and I re-read them to this day – I’d say The House of Silk is virtually indistinguishable from the genuine article. Horowitz’s tone, style, and plotting could be that of Conan Doyle himself. Horowitz says in his acknowledgements that the Sherlock Holmes Society have been supportive of his efforts ‘so far’. I would imagine that after reading his efforts, the chairman of the S.H.S. will have done back-handsprings of delight down the stairs. The House of Silk is a minor masterpiece.
As to the story… well, if Conan Doyle could come back from the grave (something that as a firm believer in spiritualism and the power of mediums, he often threatened to do) he would certainly give Horowitz a warm, if spectral, handshake.
It’s all here – Dr Watson’s deep admiration and affection for his friend; Holmes’s dry teasing of his partner-in-crime; the great detective’s seemingly supernatural powers of deduction which always resolve themselves into commonplace observations.
Chapter One opens with Holmes deducing Watson’s private, unspoken thoughts on a domestic matter and the good doctor is pleasingly thunderstruck by having his mind read – ‘But for Heaven’s sake, Holmes! You have taken the very thoughts from my head!’
And we’re off.