Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Staff Pick: The House of Silk: a Sherlock Holmes novel by Anthony Horowitz

I love a good mystery and I love Sherlock Holmes stories (M). Ever since I first read The Hound of the Baskervilles when I was twelve, I have been irreversibly hooked on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories.

Lately, Sherlock Holmes is everywhere: in the Guy Ritchie films, as a modern-day hero, in the BBC’s television series “Sherlock”, and for the first time in its 125-year history, the Arthur Conan Doyle Estate has “commissioned” the well-known English author Anthony Horowitz to write a new Sherlock Holmes novel, The House of Silk (M).

The novelist and screenwriter, Anthony Horowitz, has written many children’s and young adults’ novels, including the Power of Five, Alex Rider and the Diamond Brothers series. He is also the creator of Foyle’s War, Midsomer Murders and Collision television series.

When I started reading The House of Silk there was a lot of pressure on the author. Will Horowitz recapture the style of Sherlock Holmes’ adventures? Will I re-experience the same sense of excitement from the mystery that it did when I was a teenager? Will the story thrill me? And my answer to all these questions is yes!

The case takes place in November, 1890. The adventure itself according to Dr Watson was too “monstrous” to be published then, so he sealed its publication for 100 years. London, 1890. 221B Baker St. A fine art dealer named Edmund Carstairs visits Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson to beg for their help. He is being menaced by a strange man in a flat cap - a wanted criminal who seems to have followed him all the way from America. In the days that follow, his home is robbed, his family is threatened. And then the first murder takes place...” - Back cover.

Horowitz took this responsibility seriously. In an address to the Sherlock Holmes Society of London, he expressed the 10 “rules” he followed to stay true to Doyle which I found interesting:

1. No over the top action.
2. No women love interests for Holmes.
3. No gay references between Holmes and Watson.
4. No walk on appearances by famous people.
5. No drugs taken by Holmes.
6. Do your research and get the details right.
7. Use the right language - 19th century English.
8. Not too many murders.
9. Include best known characters.
10. When doing publicizing for book don't wear a deerstalker hat or smoke a pipe.

In my opinion, Horowitz has done a great job of capturing the storytelling tone and atmosphere of the original works. His Victorian London is just as dark and dirty, his characters are as charismatic, proud and plain evil. The plot is clever and full of twists. The crimes are intricate. A full cast of well-known characters (Mrs. Hudson, Baker Street Irregulars, Inspector Lestrade, Sherlock’s brother Mycroft and even Moriarty) make a welcome appearance. There are plenty of references to the original novels to keep Sherlock's fans pleased. I found the story darker and faster- paced than the original works. However, I think that The House of Silk will be appealing to both old Sherlock fans and first-time readers.

I had a wonderful time reading the novel. To my mind this story is a good addition to the Holmes adventures. But I am curious to hear opinions of other Sherlock Holmes’ fans. Do you think the portrait of Sherlock Holmes is accurate? Are these Holmes and Watson we know and love?

1 comment:

  1. I thought this was a great read. It does read a bit faster than the original tales, but I think that's a good fit for a modern audience. The setting and use of characters felt very authentic - a great addition to the Holmes canon!