Book Review: The House of Silk

If you’ve been reading my blogs, you’ve probably gathered that I read a fair number of books. I often mean to review them as well, but I seldom get around to actually doing that. Mostly that’s because I leave off reviewing a book until I have time to “do it properly”, with an in-depth and considered review. Well, maybe it’s better to write a short and not-too-deeply-considered review rather than none at all! So I’m going to give that a try with The House of Silk.

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The House of Silk: A Sherlock Holmes Novel

I’m a great fan of the Sherlock Holmes stories, and I enjoy other writers’ attempts at creating new ones. Those attempts vary quite a lot in their style and quality. The House of Silk is a pretty good one in my opinion.

It’s by Anthony Horowitz, who has written a fair number of scripts for the Poirot TV series, and who created the Foyle’s War TV series, so has pretty good credentials with period mysteries. He was also approached and authorized by the Conan Doyle estate to write this novel, for what that’s worth.

The book is longer than the original Conan Doyle novels, and covers two interconnected cases, “The Man in the Flat Cap” and “The House of Silk”. That’s worth mentioning because it turned out that the “Flat Cap” part is very much along the lines of Conan Doyle stories, while the “House of Silk” has more in common with modern day crime stories.

All the usual elements of the Holmes world are present, and pretty nicely done. There’s Holmes and Watson in Baker Street, Lestrade, Mrs Hudson, Mycroft, the Baker Street Irregulars. The Irregulars play a pretty important part too.

For me the book’s biggest strength is how well it does the traditional Conan Doyle tropes. There are a few deductions that are as delightful and surprising as in the orignal stories, the voice of Watson is well captured, and the banter with Holmes is often very good too.

The biggest weakness is that Horowitz lets a lot of modern preoccupations into the book as well. His Watson has a lot more to say on the social conditions of Victorian London than the real Watson ever did, and seems pretty alien in doing it, like an outsider to his own time and place. The House of Silk mystery tries to be darker than the usual Conan Doyle stories, but in the end what is revealed is a pretty well-worn cliche in modern crime dramas, and I saw where that case was going a mile off.

Overall, this is well worth a read. Depending on why you read Holmes you might rate it anything from 3 stars to 5 stars. I like my Holmes traditional, and while I might be interested in social commentary if it had any new insights to offer, that didn’t apply here at all. So I feel I’m being on the generous side in rating it 4 stars. A solid effort, good overall, and excellent in parts.