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Friday, January 20, 2012

The House of Silk. Anthony Horowitz. Orion Books Ltd. (2011)

A superb Sherlock Holmes story, it captures the spirit of the originals and uses the required details in a fresh and very enjoyable way. While London is in the grip of a savage winter, a client comes to 221B Baker street with a strange story. He is being stalked by a scar faced man, a man he can identify, a man who is a grave threat to him and his family. Holmes is very interested in the case and agrees to investigate. As he does so he hears of the House of Silk, a mysterious,very powerful, and clearly criminal organisation. Holmes is very explicitly warned against any further inquiries in the House of Silk, which naturally encourages him to delve even deeper.  Holmes and Watson find themselves in very considerable danger, from unexpected sources as the investigation unfolds. The reveals are superbly staged, Holmes is as brilliant and unexpected as he should be. The secret of the House of Silk is ugly enough to support the plot and the superb loop the story takes at its conclusion is sharp, bitter and utterly fitting.
Anthony Horowitz has accomplished a very difficult feat, he has written a true Sherlock Holmes book that Arthur Conan Doyle would never have written. From the wonderful opening that sets the stage for one story that cleverly becomes another before the satisfying resolution, the structure of the story never fails. The set pieces are staged with great flair, they effortlessly showcase Holmes' brilliance and his love of the dramatic. The cast are a nicely judged mixture of new and old, they play together with force and tremendous vigor. Mycroft Holmes features  as does Inspector Lestrade and Professor Moriarty, all of them are given fresh opportunities and are far from stale replicas of the originals. In particular Inspector Lestrade is given a chance to be the competent, professional police officer he is away from Holmes' withering gaze.
The new cast members are a salty and engaging series of villains, they are careful, vindictive and powerful. The threads that bind them and the force of their motives are well shaded and sorted, they act to be a convincing threat to Holmes, something that is very difficult to do. The rules of the genre dictate that Holmes cannot fail completely in a truly serious matter, the game is largely about how he wins. In this case Anthony Horowitz give the game a subtle and very effective tweaking that does not damage or undermine it, it is a very engaging variation.
This highly engaging book is a deeply satisfying pleasure.

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