For the first time in its one-hundred-and-twenty-five-year history, the Arthur Conan Doyle Estate has authorized a new Sherlock Holmes novel.
Once again, THE GAME’S AFOOT…
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.
Almost unwillingly, Holmes and Watson find themselves being drawn ever deeper into an international conspiracy connected to the teeming criminal underworld of Boston, the gaslit streets of London, opium dens and much, much more. And as they dig, they begin to hear the whispered phrase-the House of Silk-a mysterious entity that connects the highest levels of government to the deepest depths of criminality. Holmes begins to fear that he has uncovered a conspiracy that threatens to tear apart the very fabric of society.
The Arthur Conan Doyle Estate chose the celebrated, #1 New York Times bestselling author Anthony Horowitz to write The House of Silk because of his proven ability to tell a transfixing story and for his passion for all things Holmes. Destined to become an instant classic, The House of Silk brings Sherlock Holmes back with all the nuance, pacing, and almost superhuman powers of analysis and deduction that made him the world’s greatest detective, in a case depicting events too shocking, too monstrous to ever appear in print…until now.
The House of Silk reimagines the world Sherlock Holmes and his trusty sidekick Dr. Watson inhabited. It tries to bring to life the legendary figure of Holmes and the beloved Watson. I haven’t read any of the original work so I will not be able to compare the two. However, I have watched the BBC adaptation and I must say that I could not help but compare the two even though I know that both have taken some liberties in their portrayals of the characters.
The House of Silk moves a bit too slowly for my taste. As a reader, I am patient, however, I felt that the narrative was oddly stagnant and the pacing was deliberately delayed. I also am not a fan of the dire foreshadowing – no, I am okay with it once or twice but when it happens frequently in the novel, it makes me feel as if I ought to be on tenterhooks while expecting the worst to happen instead of being allowed to come upon the situation unprepared and discover for myself the richness of the emotions evoked by these unexpected happening – tragic though they may be.
The progression of the narrative aside, I also had trouble with the characterizations of Holmes and, to a lesser degree, Watson. As I said previously, I have watched the BBC adaptation of Holmes and constructed my expectations of his character from the show. Horowitz infuses his Holmes with a very explicit humanity that I felt was at odds with the character as I had imagined him. Maybe it is because the book is written by a contemporary author who can’t help but shape his Holmes in a way more pertinent to the times but I felt that the callousness that is companion to Holmes’ superior intellect is far more fitting than the moral chaos this Holmes finds himself in after one of the homeless kids he has working for him winds up dead. In my mind, the original Holmes would have pragmatically denied any blame because he understood that he did not directly influence the boy’s actions that led to his murder.
Again, this may be due to the fact that to me, Holmes is personified as Benedict Cumberbatch plays him. I found that Holmes reflecting on his actions and being troubled by them sat ill with me. Dr. Watson does not have much of a personality in the novel. Instead, he becomes this vessel through which we view Holmes and perhaps it is because he is more in touch with his human side that he sees in Holmes the same thing. I guess perspective is very important.
The House of Silk has some really interesting writing, an example of which is this gem:
“It was a fairy dismal place with tattered curtains, a mouldering carpet and a bed that looked more exhausted than anyone who might have attempted to sleep in it.” (page 66)
In conclusion, I enjoyed the book to a degree. As a 21st century reader though, it definitely lacked the speed and sustained tension that I like in my mysteries. If you are looking for something similar to the BBC adaptation or the Robert Downey Junior adaptations, this may not the book for you.