THE GAME’S 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’…
The House of Silk is a Sherlock Holmes spin off novel, the first authorised by the Conan Doyle Estate. It is told from the perspective of Watson reflecting back on what he describes as Sherlock Holmes most sinister and disturbing case, with twists and turns at every corner.
I’ve never read any of the Sherlock Holmes books, beyond a small section of The Sign of Four, for college a number of years ago. I am of course familiar with the character. It impossible not to come across some incarnation of Sherlock Holmes at some point, be it Disney’s Basil the Mouse Detective or the BBC’s current series staring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. However I can’t say that I’m familiar with Conan Doyle’s style. That said Horowitz I feel does manage to capture both the character of Holmes and a style which seems fitting to the series.
So having captured the characters and style of Doyle, what about the plot? The plot is well paced, enjoyable and full of twists and turns. Is it great writing? No. It’s average. Enjoyable escapism but little more. That being said, the original books aren’t necessarily considered great literature compared to other works of the period by Dickens, Wilde, Hardy etc. They are enjoyable stories, written as sensational tales for a public with a growing interest in dark and gruesome events. We remember Doyle because he is the father of detective stories and when he first published his books, they were new and original. This gets to the heart of my issue with Horowitz’s attempt. There is nothing new or original about it. It is a carbon copy of that it seeks to reflect. This may have been Horowitz’s purpose and if so then he achieved it. However to my mind, if you are going to do a spin off of a well known book or series, then you must try bring something new to, you must add something to its canon. On this front Horowitz most certainly fails.
Overall an enjoyable book but little more. There seems nothing more to be said so I’ll leave you with a picture of Benedict Cumberbatch (your’re welcome 😉 )