Friday, 12 April 2013

The House of Silk

The House of Silk
Anthony Horowitz
London, Orion, 2012, 389p

How is it possible for a new Sherlock Holmes adventure to appear, I hear you ask, when Arthur Conan Doyle has been dead some 80 years? Well, that is what I asked myself when embarking on this novel. It seems Dr John Watson had one last story to tell, and has used Anthony Horowitz as his medium. 

The House of Silk is a grand novel of a crime adventure. Holmes and Watson reuinte whilst Watson's wife is away in order to investigate a mystery of international scale. Edmund Carstairs appeals to the detective to protect him from a killer who has travelled from America to track down his victim. The investigation leads Watson and Holmes deep into the dark street of London, where young boys are killed, opium-use is ripe, and Holmes is framed for murder. The House of Silk seems impossible to find, but the daring duo are sure it holds the solutions to their questions.

Reading Holmes in novel form was a struggle, as what I have always liked about these detective stories is the concise nature of Watson's narrative. In this book, he is an elderly man writing about a story he has been previously unable to tell. His narrative is reminiscent and full of regret, as he clearly misses the adventures of his youth. 

Horowitz is clearly a great lover of Sherlock Holmes - he keeps to ten strict rules when writing, in order to avoid over-indulging himself. He keeps fairly loyal to the original, other than a few anomalies  and the aforementioned extended length of this adventure. The old favourites are included - Mrs Hudson, Mycroft and Lestrande. The drama is tense, with moments of comic relief, and the story is unpredictable enough to satisfy. Holmes is typically eccentric, seeming to have solved the mystery long before anyone else - Watson and the reader can hardly keep up.

And yet, I felt a little like I was betraying Conan Doyle. The thing I have always loved about Holmes is how much Conan Doyle hated him - determined to kill him off, convinced the character was haunting him. In his attempt to bring the detective back to life, Horowitz has too much love for Holmes; his passion seeps through the pages. This is no bad trait in normal circumstances, but I miss the resentment that his original creator had for that brilliant detective. 

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