I am a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes. It is quite possible that you have heard me mention that fact that Sherlock Holmes and Arthur Conan Doyle were two of the reason that my reading was saved at two varying points in my life. I was therefore both interest and slight unease that I felt when I heard that Anthony Horowitz had been approved by the Conan Doyle estate to write a new Holmes and Watson mystery. ‘The House of Silk’ is the result and it was, once again, with interest and unease that I opened the novel and read on.
I don’t want to give anything away about the plot of ‘The House of Silk’ because like all good mystery novels to give anything away would be to the detriment of anyone contemplating reading it. I can say that we join Holmes, through the narrative of Dr Watson once more after he has been starving himself for several weeks for a case (could this be ‘The Adventure of the Dying Detective’ from ‘His Last Bow’ by any chance?) now finished and bored waiting for another. Watson has just come to stay and sure enough a new case turns up on the doorstep in the form of Edward Carstairs, a young London art dealer, who believes someone is following him, someone who might want revenge after an incident in America in Carstairs’ past. And the game is afoot…
There is of course much more going on than meets the eye, Watson points out early on that nothing is ever simple and yet it’s the simple trivialities that can make or break a case, and actually in Watson’s introduction we are told that there are two strands to this in the form of both ‘The House of Silk’ and ‘The Man in the Flat Cap’, where they merge and why though is all up for discovery. It is also Watson’s introduction that tells us why, after Sherlock’s death some years before he has chosen to finally divulge this tale which was ‘simply too monstrous, too shocking to appear in print’ and ‘would tear apart the entire fabric of society’.
So how does Horowitz do as writing a Holmes novel or telling one through the voice of Watson? Well, apart from occasionally rather too often mentioning that this was ‘the greatest’ or ‘most difficult’ of his cases (which seemed a little self congratulatory) I thought this was excellent and I am a big Holmes fan and a big cynic. I could tell that Horowitz was a true fan of Sherlock and through his passion and knowledge, like when in the first chapter Holmes deduces why Watson has come to visit just as he did when they first met in ‘A Study in Scarlet’, the voice rang true.
Holmes reached out and took the strip of silk from me. He laced it through his skeletal fingers and held it in front of him, examining it in the way that a man might a poisonous snake. ‘If this was directed to me as a challenge, it is one I now accept,’ he said. He punched the air, his fist closing on the white ribbon. ‘And I tell you Watson, that I shall make them rue the day that it was sent.’
I really, really enjoyed ‘The House of Silk’, it drew me in. I loved spending time with Holmes and Watson again and was gripped and tricked along the way. I just loved the adventure of it all. It doesn’t try to take Holmes anywhere new that the loyal fans will be unhappy with, nor does it become a pastiche of a Holmes novel. I knew it wasn’t Conan Doyle but I knew I was in safe hands. It has certainly made me want to turn back to the original Holmes novels; I hope Horowitz and Holmes fans will do the same, to me that is the sign of a great return and a successful one.