I have often reflected upon the strange series of circumstances that led me to my long association with one of the most singular and remarkable figures of my age.
It took me a year to take this book off my bookshelf because I just didn’t know what to make of a non-Conan Doyle Sherlock. I wrote an article on here eons ago about authors taking up other people’s characters and found myself to be quite a cynic on the matter (article is here for your perusal). But nevertheless I decided to give The House of Silk a chance, not least because my lovely boyfriend gave it to me and he was beginning to think I was never going to read it! He is a huge Sherlock fan so I felt safe that his recommendation would hold out but as he also thinks Robert Downey Jnr is a better Sherlock than Cumberbatch (sacrilege thinking in my opinion!) I still went into The House of Silk feeling sceptical…
From the very first page it was clear that I needn’t have worried. Horowitz sidesteps the usual pitfalls of the pastiche and has worked hard to both capture and reimagine the spirit of Doyle’s Sherlock. There is clear respect for the canon and Horowitz, thankfully, minimises his interference with this much-loved literary world, even listing the top ten things he knew he couldn’t touch in the Afterword at the end. The voices of Watson and Holmes are comfortably recognisable and the premise behind the release of this new tale (a delayed publication due to the sensitive nature of the case) is a brilliant acknowledgement of what has been before.
I won’t say too much about the plot except that in true Holmes and Watson style it appears deceptively simple but the devil is in the detail and instead the twists and turns of the narrative leads them into the dark and sinister realms of society by the end. It had me second-guessing from one page to the next and I became utterly enthralled by it, resenting having to break my reading for the triviality of going to work!
This modernised mystery has a greater cinematic and polished quality to it than the original tales but it didn’t detract from the plot at all (if anything, it enhanced the experience). Conan Doyle’s Sherlock stories are much shorter and sharper than this modern incarnation yet Horowitz manages to sustain the intrigue and momentum within The House of Silk for the whole 422 pages. He captures Victorian London atmosphere effortlessly and the puzzles, plots and sub-plots are pitched perfectly. All in all, I enjoyed this Holmes reincarnation much more than I ever thought I would and will happily go on to borrow the second instalment from the boy (although I fear we will never agree on who plays the better Sherlock…)