The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz book cover
The House of Silk (2011) is the first Sherlock Holmes book to be officially endorsed by the Conan Doyle estate; Anthony Horowitz claiming to have written not a pastiche, but a new Sherlock Holmes novel. The House of Silk is truly two cases, the titular and The Case of the Man in the Flat Cap. The two cases are set in motion when a Bohemian art dealer visits Holmes in Baker Street, fearing for his life, and being stalked by a scar-faced man who lurks around every corner. Holmes and Watson are quickly drawn into a sprawling case of twists and turns and, what starts as the fallout from an art deal gone awry, quickly turns into something more sinister, with conspiracy and scandal threatening to “tear apart the very fabric of society”.

A big Sherlock Holmes fans himself, Horowitz recreates Conan Doyle's style effectively and has clearly spent a long time ensuring the novel is of the highest quality. He does, though, afford himself the opportunity to fine tune elements of the work for a modern audience. The novel finds a new and progressive attitude towards social conscience, particularly in reference to the Baker Street Irregulars, with sentiments more akin to Dickens than Conan Doyle, frequently expressed. This brings out a warmer, less arrogant side of Holmes. Indeed, Holmes as a whole appears a more balanced individual than the character drawn by Conan Doyle; here he lacks the single-minded harshness - the self-centred petulance - that created such a dichotomous and fascinating character originally. There is a mistrust of authorities and those with power too, and it is suggested that, rather than a few bad eggs, corruption is endemic and inextricably linked with power – a position which smacks of a more modern state of mind.

Horowitz captures the atmosphere of Victorian London and the voice of Watson wonderfully, without ever becoming clich├ęd or creating a caricature. There is the odd slip in the prose; an Americanism here and there, some modern phraseology, but nothing that one might grumble at. As for the story itself, although the novel is noticeably longer than any of Conan Doyle's four Holmes novels, the plot carries it along at a fair old pace and, whilst the middle of the book sags just a little, it is certainly well-paced by modern standards. There are, however, some indulgences when it comes to the characters included in the story with Moriarty and, to a lesser extent, Mycroft's appearances feeling a little unnecessary to the plot.

The two cases tie together pleasingly at the novel's conclusion and, although one strand is a little too predictable and the other a little too obtuse, the plot is well constructed and forms a delightful mystery. Horowitz has taken Holmes's world and subtly recreated it for a modern audience; the essence of the characters and the world they inhabit maintained, whilst a modern sensibility is allowed to seep, effortlessly, into the framework of the story. There are one or two inconsistencies that will irritate devout Holmes fans but, on the whole, The House of Silk is an excellent addition to the Holmes canon and, whilst never breaking new ground, provides a rollicking new adventure for fans to enjoy.

All the key elements of a Sherlock Holmes novel are here, and Horowitz capures Conan Doyle's style wonderfully well. I loved being transported back to Victorian London; smoke rising from the cobbled streets as horse-drawn carriages rumble by, to encounter once more the fierce deductive skills of the most famous detective of them all. One of the best modern attempts to add to the Holmes canon. 


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