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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

“The House of Silk: A Sherlock Holmes Novel” by Anthony Horowitz. (Reviewed by Robert Thompson)

Order “The House of SilkHERE (US) + HERE (UK)
Watch the Book Trailer HERE

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Anthony Horowitz is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Power of Five, Alex Rider and The Diamond Brothers childrens series as well as numerous other novels and short fiction. He has also written extensively for television including Foyle's War, Midsomer Murders and Collision, and adapting many of Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot novels.

PLOT SUMMARY: London, 1890. Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson are enjoying tea by the fire when an agitated gentleman arrives unannounced at 221b Baker Street. His name is Edmund Carstairs and he is being menaced by a wanted criminal who seems to have followed him all the way from America.

Intrigued by the man's tale, Holmes and Watson find themselves swiftly drawn into a series of puzzling and sinister events, stretching from the gas-lit streets of London to the teeming criminal underworld of Boston.

As the pair delve deeper into the case, they stumble across a whispered phrase “the House of Silk”—a mysterious entity and foe more deadly than any Holmes has encountered, and a conspiracy that threatens to tear apart the very fabric of society...

FORMAT/INFO: The House of Silk is 304 pages long divided over a Preface, twenty numbered/titled chapters, and an Afterword. Narration is in the first-person, exclusively via Dr Watson. The House of Silk is self-contained. November 1, 2011 marks the North American Hardcover publication of The House of Silk via Mulholland Books. The UK edition (see below) will be published on the same day via Orion Books.

ANALYSIS: Between 1887 and 1927, Sherlock Holmes appeared in fifty-six short stories and four full-length novels written by the famous detective’s creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Since then, the popular character has appeared in countless stories in literature, film, television and other media, but 2011 marks the first time in eighty-one years that a new Sherlock Holmes novel has been fully endorsed by the Arthur Conan Doyle Estate. That novel is The House of Silk.

The House of Silk is written by Anthony Horowitz, a choice I admit both surprised me and was a little worrisome at first. After all, not only had I never read anything by Anthony Horowitz before, but I thought the author only wrote children’s novels. So I wasn’t sure what to expect from Horowitz in The House of Silk. However, after finishing the book, I can say with utmost confidence that Anthony Horowitz was the right person for the job. From Dr Watson’s faithful narrative voice to the accurate portrayal of Sherlock Holmes and his recognizable idiosyncrasies, vices, and amazing powers of deduction to a skillfully executed plot full of signature Holmesian twists and revelations, Anthony Horowitz has written a Sherlock Holmes adventure that is not only rewardingly true to the originals, but also possesses a modern sensibility that will succeed with contemporary audiences.

Story-wise, The House of Silk takes place during the winter of 1890, but according to Dr Watson’s Preface, the book was written a year after Sherlock Holmes’ death. As to why Watson waited twenty-five years before writing down the adventures of The Man in the Flat Cap and The House of Silk, not to mention giving instructions that the manuscript not be opened for one hundred years, the doctor explains that “the events which I am about to describe were simply too monstrous, too shocking to appear in print”, but goes on to state that “perhaps future readers will be more inured to scandal and corruption than my own would have been.” Which is indeed true. From here, The House of Silk starts off a bit slow with Holmes accepting a case that Watson describes as “trivial”, but eventually evolves into a conspiracy that encompasses “murder, torture, kidnap and the perversion of justice”. Along the way, Wiggins and the Baker Street Irregulars, Inspector Lestrade, Mycroft Holmes, and Sherlock’s gift for disguises all play a role in the novel, while Professor Moriarty may or may not make an appearance.

CONCLUSION: Initially I had concerns about The House of Silk due to my unfamiliarity with the author Anthony Horowitz, but any doubts I had were quickly put to rest the moment Sherlock Holmes was introduced in the novel. From then on, it felt like I had stepped back in time and was reading one of the original Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, which is about as good as it gets. In closing, The House of Silk is a tremendous literary achievement by Anthony Horowitz and a triumphant return to 221b Baker Street for Sherlock Holmes fans old and new alike...


Anonymous said...

I am not familiar with Horowitz's earlier books. I don't know his style or voice or slant or anything. But I am fully familiar with Conan Doyle's works. So I read this new work with a thoroughly objective eye - and here's the review.

1. Doyle's voice is easy to get into, but difficult to sustain. Horowitz tries to reproduce it faithfully throughout the work, and almost manages. Had it not been for the almost apologetic character background forays that Watson is forced to make(a concession to modernity), the work would have been as dapper and sharp as that of the original author's. 8/10 here.

2. Without doubt this is the darkest book in the Holmes series. I will not reveal the ending, but I will say that the somewhat subtle innocence and straightforwardness of plotting that Doyle had has been replaced by the now-common convolutedness and twists introduced by Agatha Christie. But the author is forced to do what he did in the light of length constraints and compulsion to maintain plot-novelty. 7/10 here.

3. Watson is more philosophical and sombre here. The old and senile Watson, as the narrator, impresses us with his swansong. The exuberantly youthful medical man progresses through the series into a solid and respectable Briton in Doyle's hands. Horowitz takes the series to its logical conclusion. 9/10 here.

4. Doyle was not politically correct - his views seeped through his character's words. We had honourable Moslems, perfidious Hindus, slinky Indians, reckless Latinos, wild Americans, and uniformly beautiful women to greet us in Doyle's stories. Horowitz, on the other hand, is more circumspect in this work. Nothing out of order, nothing to bicker about. One almost longs for Doyle's sharp pen here. 7/10 here.

5.Horowitz;s Homles is not very original in his deductions. I say this with the full knowledge that many may not agree. His deductions are as brilliant as ever, but the subsequent ones (the succeeding ones in a series) are almost predictable. Perhaps I am too harsh here, but the author should not have compromised here. Some extra work should have been put in. 4/10 here.

6. There is however a fullness to the London of Horowitz that was missing in Doyle's works. Horowitz, it is evident, has taken much pains to immerse us in Victorian England, and succeeds magnificently. 9/10 here.

On the whole, an important work. Must read once. Reread only after you forget the plot details.

Anonymous said...

I had been eyeing this one as well, will pick it up.


Anonymous said...

Looking forward to reading it, as a younger Holmes it will be nice to see what an autor i grew up with does with a charcter i have come to love

Lynn said...

This is one book that I keep looking at and then putting back down. I couldn't quite get my head around somebody else picking up where Conan Doyle left off. But, that being said this review has made me feel more positive about reading.

Matthew Selwyn said...

Would completely agree with this review. An excellent return to the world of Holmes, brought about by a very talented writer (if, as you say, you have never read any Horowitz before he is definitely one to recommend). Glad you enjoyed it. :)

My review: The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz

buddy2blogger said...

Great review of the book!

I too liked the book immensely and would greatly recommend it :)



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