Book title: The House of Silk
Author: Anthony Horowitz
rating: 4/5 stars
Note: I use the acronym “ACD” in this review, by which I mean “Sir Arthur Conan Doyle”, but I`m too lazy to type it every single time. Plus I think ACD is an accepted thing in Sherlock Holmes fandom? ANYWAY, moving on.
To be honest, at the time of writing this, I`m feeling tired, a bit ill and I`m going through a slight panic attack (because I`m feeling ill and I`m instantly worried I did get rabies. This is apparently how my mind works now. Ugh.)
But quite possibly the main reason I`m feeling tired today, is because yesterday evening I decided to go to bed early so I could read The House of Silk for a bit and, you know, calm down after a busy day.
I can see you think “huh? How does going to bed early and reading a bit make you tired?”. Well, it makes you tired if you end up not sleeping until 2 am because you get hooked on the book so bad you can`t put it down until you`re finished.
Yep. So that happened last night.
Don`t get me wrong: I love it when that happens. I love me a good book, and this was definitely a good one.
So what`s The House of Silk about? It`s a “new Sherlock Holmes”, a Sherlock Holmes novel written by a modern author, in this case Anthony Horowitz. It`s supposedly a story that dr. Watson took a while (a very long while – he has grandchildren by now) to get written down, which explains why it`s not in the ACD canon. But in this story, like the others, Dr. Watson and Sherlock Holmes get entangled in a case that seems small at first, but grows bigger and bigger. Investigation happens, adventure happens, crime happens a lot, and you should just go and read it because the story gets complicated and there are several plot twists spread through the story. Plus I`m trying to keep this spoiler-free.
Now I have to admit that I have read several other works of Anthony Horowitz and I have loved every single one of them. I`m also a Sherlockian, have been since forever, so I might be biased on two accounts.
But I still thought this book was a thrilling read, edge-of-seat excitement, and put together very cleverly. It`s easy to get hooked on this book: I ended up reading the last 170 pages in one sitting because I couldn`t put it down anymore.
The use of language was easier than ACD. It did have the sophistication and the feel of late 19th century, but it was still an easier read than the original stories. That was a plus to me, as I often find it very difficult to work my way through the original stories.
I do have some comments on it as well though. Specifically, these two:
1. For some reason it had a slightly modern feel.
I don`t know why, as the use of language, the setting, everything fit in the late 19th century. But still, I couldn`t shake the feeling that it was really written in the modern time. Maybe it was the quick flow of the story, maybe it was because it was easier to read. I`m not sure what it was, but it just felt decidedly like a canon story written in modern times. It did sometimes make me feel like I was reading fanfiction (I like fanfiction, so that`s not really a bad thing, but I do still want to point it out).
2. It felt like two separate cases were slightly clumsily pushed together.
You`ll probably understand a bit better when you read it, but this is how it felt to me: basically the story starts off with one case, slowly rolls into another case, makes it feel like two separate cases, and then at the end it was like the author remembered that there was an earlier storyline he still needed to link to the “big” storyline. It almost felt as if the writer changed tactics and plot at some point and then couldn`t be bothered to change the first part and tried to write an ending that incorporated both storylines. It felt a bit clumsy.
Still, it must be said that the various plot twists – and then especially the ending – were very well thought out and especially very surprising. I`m trying to keep this as spoiler-free as I can, but I did not see that ending coming.
So I do definitely recommend this book. It was a good read, and I`m probably way too picky with the stories I read anyway.
But especially if you`re looking for a way into the Sherlock Holmes fandom, but the level and the sheer amount of works by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle seem a bit daunting, I`d recommend starting with The House of Silk. It introduces and explains almost all the characters of the original stories, you don`t necessarily need any background to understand what`s going on – there`s references for those who have read the other stories, but if you don`t know them you won`t be thrown off the story. It`s an easier read, a quicker finish, but it has everything the original stories also offer, making it a very good read for beginners.
Then again, if you`ve been a Sherlockian for a long time, and you`ve read all the stories and seen all the movies and TV-series, this will still be a good book. Even if just because of the fresh material, but still with all the familiar characters. It`s what we Dutch call “a fest of recognition”, a who`s-who of the ACD canon, which is in and of itself fun.
So all in all, whether you`re a long-term Sherlockian or a new fan, I`d recommend this book.
Just don`t think too much about it, and enjoy the ride instead.
Did you read this book? Or do you have other (Sherlockian or not) books you would like to recommend? Then feel free to leave a comment below!
Other book reviews I wrote: