THE HOUSE OF SILK:
A Sherlock Holmes Novel
By Anthony Horowitz
Mulholland Books, November 2011 ($27.99)
Reviewed by Larry Jung
I didn't enjoy THE HOUSE OF SILK as much as I hoped I would. Dr. Watson and Sherlock Holmes take up the case of the Flat Cap Gang who are threatening Edmund Carstairs and his wife. Holmes, in his almost superhuman way, easily tracks down the man threatening Carstairs but in the process becomes entangled in a mysterious criminal society called The House of Silk. The two mysteries, for me, didn't blend together well. The storytelling came across as stiff and mannered, trying too hard to be faithful to the original stories. As a casual reader of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's original Sherlock Holmes stories, I am more interested in a well-told story than the finer points of Sherlockian scholarship.
The Flat Cap story begins well enough. Sherlock Holmes is amazing Dr. Watson for the untold number of times with a demonstration of Holmes's fantastic skills in observation and deduction when a new case arrives in the person of Edmund Carstairs. Unfortunately for the reader, Holmes efficiently and too quickly solves the mystery of the Flat Cap Gang leaving the author Horowitz with three quarters of a book to fill out. Abruptly Dr. Watson begins the mystery of the House of Silk. This second tale rambles on for the requisite number of pages to make a novel. Then as almost an epilogue, the mysteries of the Flat Cap Gang and The House of Silk are awkwardly tied together.
Horowitz does his best to write a fast-paced adventure tale that is faithful to the original tales and also entertains the modern reader. This is no mean feat. The original stories were written in the late 1890s and early 1900s. Conan Doyle wrote for his times. Horowitz balances the taste of readers in the 21st century with the need to be as true to the original stories written over a hundred years ago for the serious Sherlock Holmes scholars and fans. Horowitz tries to blend in the Conan Doyle Holmes of lightening deductions, arrogance, secrecy, and blatant showmanship with a modern adventure tale. There are murders, opium dens, disguises, an "impossible" prison escape, a chase scene, and conspiracy at the highest levels. Horowitz sprinkles in cameos from the original tales: Mycroft Holmes, Inspector Lestrade, Professor Moriarity, and Wiggins of the Baker Street Irregulars. But the second tale of the House of Silk, despite the careful attention to the trappings of the original tales, doesn't ring true for me. Horowitz is able to mimic Conan Doyle in the first part of the book in Dr. Watson's narration of the Flat Cap mystery. But the voice of Anthony Horowitz, the best-selling Alex Rider young adult thriller series, takes over in the telling the mystery of the House of Silk.
If you are a serious reader of the original Sherlock Holmes stories, you will probably enjoy THE HOUSE OF SILK. There is plenty for you to relish as Horowitz has done his homework thoroughly. The renowned Sherlockian scholar Leslie Klinger in his review in THE GUARDIAN gives the book passing marks. High praise indeed from Klinger.
For the rest of us, THE HOUSE OF SILK has its moments, but taken as a whole, the story is only moderately interesting because Horowitz is not successful in finding a Sherlockian-novel-length adventure.
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