The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz

The House of SilkThe authentic Watsonian voice…

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Of all the Holmes pastiches I have read (and there have been many), Horowitz has, I believe, achieved the most authentic Watsonian voice. For most of the time, it is possible to believe the book was written by Conan Doyle, the master storyteller, himself. All the regular characters are there – Inspector Lestrade, Mrs Hudson, brother Mycroft – and as a Holmes fanatic, I wasn’t conscious of any of those jarring inconsistencies that mar many a Holmes tribute. The plot is complex and well written, and we see Holmes both as the calculating thinker and as the man of action. The Holmes/Watson relationship is very faithfully portrayed.

Anthony Horowitz (www.telegraph.co.uk)
Anthony Horowitz
(www.telegraph.co.uk)

However, I felt that sometimes Horowitz allowed the tone to stray quite far from the originals. For example, Watson’s concern for the contrast of rich and poor, his reflections on the street urchins, smacked more of Dickens than Conan Doyle. Suddenly the Baker Street Irregulars are no longer the cheeky, street-smart gang of old; now they are to be pitied for their poverty and the harshness of their lives. All true, of course, but not in keeping with the originals. I also felt that the main strand of the plot was well outside the bounds that Conan Doyle would have set and as a result in the latter stages it got more difficult to forget that this was not the genuine article.

In the Kindle version, there is included a very interesting essay by Horowitz where he describes how he came to write the book (he was invited to write it by the estate of Conan Doyle – the first time they have issued such an invitation) and lays out the ten rules he set himself, before beginning to write, to try to ensure an authentic flavour. He admits that he broke one or two of the rules along the way and I feel that was a pity – had he managed to stay within them I believe the end result would have been as close to perfect as any homage could be.

Notwithstanding these criticisms, which I am sure would only bother other Holmes pedants like myself, I think this is a very good read, well written, well plotted and full of interest. The best faux-Holmes I have read, I would recommend this to existing fans and newcomers alike.

Basil Rathbone - the best Holmes of all. Don't you agree?
Basil Rathbone – the best Holmes of all.
Don’t you agree?

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20 thoughts on “The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz

  1. It really is a challenge I think to do a very effective set of voices and plot and so on if they were created by another author. Horowitz deserves a lot of credit for his success at that challenge and I’m glad you liked this one. Your comments about the ‘Baker Street Irregulars’ is really interesting as I think that change from Conan Doyle’s way of writing perhaps reflects modern world views? As ever, thanks for a fine review.

    • I think you’re right that it was modern sensibilities creeping in. I see it’s now billed on Amazon as Sherlock Holmes Novel 1 – I wonder if that means Horowitz has been persuaded to write another, although he did say that this would be the only one.

  2. I’ve been meaning to put this on my library list for some time and your review has only reinforced that. I used to read Horowitz’s books for children to my classes of ten and eleven year olds and they loved him. He really is an excellent writer.

  3. Yes, I agree with the observation that it reflects current sensibilities. We all have these modern filters through which we see the world. Sometimes I wonder if it’s a mistake to “modernize” the foundation of another author’s work, but then I think that writers have been doing this for centuries, sometimes not as blatantly. But who am I to judge? If it’s done well, that should make the case for doing it at all, shouldn’t it?

    • I must admit I don’t really like modern pastiches or follow-ups to classic books, for that very reason. They either stick with the original attitudes which can be jarring to modern ears, or update them leaving me wonder why bother? Why not write something new instead? But I never seem to be able to stop myself reading the occasional Holmes pastiche – it’s like an addiction. So it’s always a pleasant surprise when I find one I enjoy.

    • No, no, no! Brett was too humourless and anyway Holmes should always be done in black & white! But at least we can agree about the Downey version – kissing a woman?? Ugh!! (Although if memory serves me right, you enjoyed the pastiches where he has a female assistant – double ugh!!)

    • I’d definitely recommend it – especially if you already like Horowitz’s writing.

      I like Benedict Cumberbatch as an actor, but I hate the modernised Holmes, I’m afraid – probably an age thing! I love the originals so much, I hate when anyone tampers with them. Basil Rathbone will always be Holmes for me!

      Thanks for commenting. 😀

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