Friday, 6 January 2012

Sherlock Holmes: A Triumphant Return

Early last year, the literary world (this blog included) was abuzz with the news that the Conan Doyle Estate had, at last, commissioned a new, full-length Sherlock Holmes murder mystery.

The decision, which was a significant departure for the executors of great author’s estate, came as a surprise to many. Up to now, the Estate trustees had jealously guarded Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s legacy, steadfastly refusing to sanction any of the unofficial Holmesian tales that had been penned since his death (of which there have been many).

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
And, in another surprising (and not altogether uncontroversial) move, the man entrusted to follow in Conan Doyle’s footsteps was none other than Anthony Horowitz. Although a prolific author with a number of highly successful children’s detective stories under his belt (including the The Power of Five and the Alex Rider series), Horowitz could hardly be described as a literary heavyweight – and many, myself included, questioned the wisdom of the choice.

And so, now that the book, intriguing titled The House of Silk, has finally been published, did the gamble pay off?

In short – yes. Exceedingly so.

The story, like all of Conan Doyle’s offerings, is narrated by Dr Watson, Holmes’s long-time friend and collaborator. By now, the famous detective has been dead for over a year, and the good doctor is putting pen to paper one last time in an attempt to chronicle the most sensational and disturbing case that Holmes had ever been called upon to investigate.

Indeed, so disquieting are the details of this case that Watson is taking great pains to ensure that the account is held under lock and key for one hundred years, in the hope that, when such a time has elapsed, society will be better equipped to contend with startling revelations contained within his narrative.

As a back-story, it’s a rather good one, conveniently giving Horowitz licence to take the classic Sherlock Holmes mystery to altogether different level by allowing him to update the story for a modern audience.

And, thankfully, this unique opportunity is not wasted. In The House of Silk, Horowitz has successfully captured not only the voice of Conan Doyle, but also the very essence of Sherlock Holmes. Characterisations are pitch-perfect, while descriptions of Victorian London (and its seedy underbelly) are as believable as they are disturbing.

Anthony Horowitz
And, as for the story itself, the plot is as convoluted and confusing as any of the classic mysteries, if not more so, and keeps the reader guessing right to the very end.

In fact, in every aspect, the transition from Conan Doyle to Horowitz is simply seamless.

Horowitz has indeed proved himself a worthy successor. The doubters have been silenced.

'The House of Silk' by Anthony Horowitz is published by Orion Books.

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  1. Good to hear. He's done alot of crime telly writing. Loving all the Sherlock on the TV too. Will definately keep an eye out for this one.

  2. Great review ..... have been thinking of buying a copy, but have been a bit reluctant as am such a fan of the originals. Think I'll wade in and put it on my b'day list. Thanks x

  3. Great review of the pastiche!

    I too liked this pastiche immensely. As you put aptly, Horowitz captures the spirit of the canon nicely.

    I am currently reading 'Holmes on the Range' and am liking that as well :)