House of Silk – Anthony Horowitz

House of Silk – Anthony Horowitz

Title: House of Silk
Author: Anthony Horowitz
Genre: Crime
Publisher: Orion Books
Publication Date: 1st November 2011
Pages: 405 (including author interview)
Rating: 3/5 stars

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THE GAMES AFOOT…

It is November 1890 and London is gripped by a merciless winter. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are enjoying tea by the fire when an agitated gentleman arrives unannounced at 221B Baker Street. He begs Holmes for help, telling the unnerving story of a scar-faced man with piercing eyes who has stalked him in recent weeks.

Intrigued, 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 and the mysterious ‘House of Silk’…

I bought this book back in May when I met Anthony Horowitz at the Sydney Writer’s Festival. Normally I am prepared and I read a book before the event (and before getting it signed), but in this case I was incredibly slack. And I have only just finished it now, four months after purchase…. (If I don’t start a book immediately after buying it, it tends to sit on the pile for a VERY long time!)

I do like a bit of Sherlock Holmes – they were a great favourite at high school, when I was supposed to be studying for exams; light, easy reads which intrigued the mind, but always resolved matters. And so I was excited to see Horowitz’ take on one of Britain’s most famous characters.

The story was initially slow – it took me a while to get into it…. There are two concurrent storylines (which come together neatly at the end – as expected in a Holmes novel!). The first centred around a man in a flat cap, linking a gallery curator with a Boston gang, the second around a mysterious but sinister institution named the ‘House of Silk’. The second story was definitely more interesting – one of those cases which has the potential to incriminate many powerful figures. The resolution was very modern for a Holmes novel, but I think it added to the story.

Horowitz tried very hard to stay true to Conan Doyle’s writing style, and I believe he succeeded. The only major issue was the length of the novel, which Horowitz does mention in his author’s notes. A book published today needs to be much longer than one published in Conan Doyle’s time. At the end of the book, he includes a list of rules he created for himself when it came to writing the novel:

  1. No over-the-top action
  2. No women (as in, a Holmes love interest)
  3. No gay references in the relationship between Holmes and Watson
  4. No walk-on appearances by famous people
  5. No drugs – at least, none to be taken by Sherlock Holmes
  6. Do the research
  7. Use the right language
  8. Not too many murders
  9. Include all the best-known characters
  10. When publicising the book, never, ever be seen wearing a deerstalker hat or smoking a pipe

He followed the rules very well, though there are still drug references and a significant number of murders! I liked the Moriarty appearance (not going to say anything else about that, except that it was excellently done!) And I am disappointed that he didn’t succumb to the pressure to break rule number 10.

I did enjoy the book, once I got into the gritty plot-line of the ‘House of Silk’. The end was fantastic, as always, tying everything in together – even when I try to link things, I have no clue until Holmes explains all! I would like to try Moriarty, Horowitz’ next foray into Holmes, but it isn’t narrated by Watson and I don’t know how I feel about that….

Overall, Horowitz has done a brilliant job, but it hasn’t surpassed the original.

Do you think an author can ever live up to the hype when they take on an already famous character?

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