The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz (Orion)
A new(ish) Sherlock Holmes novel? I thought, as I browsed the library shelves… that must be worth investigating (sorry).
I have to admit I’ve never read anything else by Anthony Horowitz. I’m mostly familar with his work for television – particularly Foyles War, the WW2 (and later Cold War) set detective series – and the Alex Rider series that my son is quite a fan of. I really do enjoy a good old-fashioned mystery story, and Sherlock Holmes is a favourite – I couldn’t imagine the Conan Doyle estate would have trusted Holmes and Watson to any writer who couldn’t do them justice, so I checked The House of Silk out and dove in.
All the Homlesian themes are there…shall we have a list? Here we go; we have Watson, Mrs Hudson, Inspector Lestrade, Mycroft, the Baker Street Irregulars, various other urchins and unfortunates. A troubled art dealer with a new, mysterious, young wife and an angry sister, a shady lord, a shady vicar running a boys’ reform school. London is foggy, gaslit and cold. We travel in hansom cabs and on trains which run to timetable (I wonder how Sherlock would deal with Arriva, or Southern Rail, I really do) around the salubrious and less so parts of the capital and beyond – all the way to America in fact. Opium and tobacco are smoked, brandy and tea is drunk. Old cases are referred back to, three pipe problems are mentioned.
Watson, as usual, recounts the adventure. He writes while in his hospital bed at the end of his life, and the tale is then put away for 100 years, the events being deemed too shocking to be published at the time. It’s been a while since I read the Holmes stories but Horowitz has – as you would imagine – managed to write in exactly the same style, without it sounding at all like pastiche. In ‘The House of Silk’ Holmes is as single-minded as ever; Watson describes him as a foxhound which has found the scent, “just as an animal will devote its entire being to one activity, so could he allow events to absorb him to the extent that even the most basic human needs – food, water sleep – could be set aside”. Holmes is reckless and puts himself in the middle of danger, as usual. It’s all there and it’s all brilliantly written by Horowitz.
The tale zooms along like a speeding hansom cab; the plotting is excellent and it’s all excellently Conan Doyle-esq – in fact if this had been published as a ‘newly discovered Conan Doyle story’ I’d have believed it. There were points where I thought ‘oh, I’ve solved this!’ but of course it’s never as easy as you think because this is The Great Detective at work.
Further investigations tell me there’s a second one of these called (but is it about?) Moriarty, I’ll be down to the library for that soon.