Saturday 29 September 2012

Book Review: The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz

The House of Silk
by Anthony Horowitz
Orion Books
The New Sherlock Holmes
4 stars


It is November 1890 and London is gripped by a merciless winter. Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson are enjoying tea by the fire when an agitated gentleman arrives unannounced at 221b Baker Street. He begs Holmes for help, telling the unnerving story of a scar-faced man with piercing eyes who has stalked him in recent weeks.

Intrigued, Holmes and Watson find themselves swiftly drawn into a series of puzzling and sinister events, stretching from the gas-lit streets of London to the teeming criminal underworld of Boston and the mysterious 'House of Silk'...


I've read some children's books by Anthony Horowitz and he wrote some of my favourite episodes of Robin of Sherwood in the 80s, so I was intrigued by this new Sherlock Holmes mystery written by him. It's been a while since I've read original Holmes, but I have to say that the story Horowitz has written had the same mysterious, intriguing feel as the originals. He has an excellent eye for description, but without going overboard. You can see what the characters see.

There are quite a few different strands that at first seem unconnected: Mr. Carstairs, an art dealer being stalked by the strange scarred man, the murder of one of the street boys Holmes uses as his eyes and ears, a wrongful arrest and the mysterious House of Silk. But as the story progresses, you see how the threads are all connected. I loved seeing how they all merged.

Reading the book you are transported back to Victorian London and surrounding countryside, but without it ever becoming a history lesson. It has a good sense of time and place, but I'm not so sure about the guns. There seemed to be an awful lot of guns about in this tale, were they really that easy to get hold of in Victorian London? The characters are well-drawn, well-rounded so that you could almost imagine talking with them.

I enjoyed the book, but I would have enjoyed it far more if I hadn't guessed what the House of Silk was quite early in the book. It may be that I've read too many mysteries and so it is very difficult to surprise me. I was disappointed that I had guessed correctly, I wanted to be proven wrong, with some outlandish theory from Holmes, but alas, that was not to be. There was one secret I didn't guess, so it was nice to be surprised on that one - and no I'm not going to give it away!

All in all, it's a good yarn well-told and I hope he writes some more Sherlock Holmes in future.

Reviewed by Annette Gisby

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