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THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES!
The House of Silk: The New Sherlock Holmes Novel - Anthony Horowitz
Member Name: Mauri
The House of Silk: The New Sherlock Holmes Novel - Anthony Horowitz
Date: 21/02/12, updated on 21/02/12 (109 review reads)
Advantages: Authentic, well written, great story
Disadvantages: I want more!
Even when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle grew weary of his creation and decided to kill him off Holmes had become so popular that Doyle was forced to bring him back for more adventures. Of course while Doyle was a prolific writer, for the committed fan the four novels and five short story collections were never enough, we all wish that more had been written. Since the publication of the last collection in 1927 and after Doyle's death in 1930 other writers have attempted with varying degrees of success to resurrect the great detective in new novels and original films adaptations. However not until 2011 did Conan Doyle's estate commission a new authorised Holmes story when they asked Anthony Horowitz, author of the Alex Rider novels, and TV period detective series 'Foyle's War' to take on this onerous task. Horowitz responded by writing 'The House of Silk' but did he rise to this most difficult of challenges?
"COME, WATSON, COME! THE GAME IS AFOOT"
In the early nineteen hundreds Dr. John Watson after two marriages, three children, seven grandchildren and a successful career in medicine is seeing out his days in a comfortable resting home. There he reminisces about his great friend Sherlock Holmes who has recently passed away. Watson now reaching the end of his life has finally decided to reveal the details of a previous adventure that in his own words was "too shocking to reveal until now". The events of this case take us back to 1890 when Holmes and Watson were approached by Wimbledon based art dealer Edmund Carstairs who tells them that he and his wife are being stalked by mysterious man most noticeable by the strange flat cap he wears. Carstairs worried for his own safety and that of his young wife Catherine hires Holmes to find out who this man is and what it is he wants from them. Holmes quickly realises that the case is more complex than it at first appears and after enlisting the help of the "unofficial force" a gang of street urchins known as the Baker Street 'irregulars' events take a sinister turn. Holmes and Watson soon get embroiled with Irish American gangsters, secret criminal organisations, corrupt official and scandals at the highest level of Victorian society. They venture into the seediest parts of London in pursuit of their deadly foes and the whereabouts or nature of the mysterious 'House of Silk'. An intricate web of deceit, blackmail, kidnapping and murder slowly unfolds and Holmes' deductive powers are tested to the full.
In writing 'The House of Silk' Horowitz has almost done the impossible, he has produced a Sherlock Holmes novel that will sit comfortably among the great originals written by Doyle. The author has not radically changes Holmes and Watson from the original stories. Holmes is still the same analytical genius who likes to show off his powers at Watson's expense and yet rather struggles with social niceties and the complexities of human relationships. Watson is still the stalwart loyal friend with a more sensitive view on life. He is an everyman figure that we as readers can warm to and a perfect counterbalance to Holmes' eccentric genius. It would not surprise me if Horowitz had watched and admired the Granada TV serialisation of the Sherlock Holmes stories starring Jeremy Brett since this is the adaptation that most came to mind when I read this book.
"LONDON, THAT GREAT CESSPOOL INTO WHICH ALL THE LOUNGERS AND IDLERS OF THE EMPIRE ARE IRRESISTIBLY DRAINED"
All the classic trademarks of fictional Victorian London we love most from the original stories are still there and Horowitz has gone to great length to recreate an authentic Victorian setting for his Sherlock Holmes adventure. In preparation for writing this story he consulted with many historians and Victorian experts and also drew upon his knowledge of such contemporary Victorian authors as Dickens and Trollope to get an accurate feel for what the period was like both culturally and practically. The research has paid off handsomely. I found the setting for the story extremely believable and it struck the same tone as the original Holmes stories I have read. Victorian London was a complex mixture of grand opulence and desperate poverty. At the height of the industrial revolution which helped top make Britain one of the greatest powers and one of the wealthiest countries in the world there existed such abject poverty that saw homeless orphaned children roaming the street often taking to begging or crime to stay alive. Fashionable districts where the rich showed off their wealth in grand buildings were mirrored by areas full of derelict unsanitary houses home to the unfortunate victims of the unfettered capitalism of the age. Horowitz's Holmes and Watson are not unaware of this and parts of the story they comment on these social inequalities in a way that the original characters might not have done.
Among cobbled street filled with the sound of hooves and Hansom cabs, the lights of the gas fuelled street lamps struggling to penetrate the dense London fog, Holmes and Watson can still be found hunting out dastardly criminals in the disreputable public houses and opium dens of the dangerous east end. Inspector Lestrade of the Yard is also present as always to be flummoxed by Holmes's deductive reasoning, even Holmes' greatest adversary Professor Moriaty makes an appearance...or does he?
ELEMENTARY? I THINK NOT!
It is obvious from Horowitz's previous works that he can plot a good story but I think the chance to work with literature greatest detective has enabled him to reach new heights. 'The House of Silk' is an engrossing mystery that slowly unravels itself with ever increasing complexity. The story twists and turns this way and that so as to keep the reader engaged, entertained and confused in equal measure. Like Watson we are lead through a myriad of clues and red herrings and like Watson we are continually confounded by what is happening. Holmes of course is not although even he is tested to the limit and admits to making grave errors in his investigation. What Horowitz brings to the story is a certain amount of introspection by Watson and (through Watsons words) Holmes that was somewhat missing from the originals. The characters are given more psychological depth and the relationship between the two is subtly but touchingly examined. Even the enigmatic Holmes is brought to life emotionally as a person rather than simply being a forensic machine.
In short Horowitz has fully succeeded in creating a new Sherlock Holmes adventure that fans old and new can be proud of. Whether this is the first Sherlock Holmes story you read or simply the latest it will be either a great introduction or a welcomed addition to the Holmes canon. The question is can Horowitz be persuaded to write more? Yes please!
'The House of Silk' the new Sherlock Holmes novel by Anthony Horowitz in hardcover (304 pages) can be bought from Amazon UK for £9.49 with free delivery.
© Mauri 2012
Summary: The first authorised new Sherlock Holmes Novel