In freezing London, November 1890, Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson receive a man unnerved by a scarred-face stalker with piercing eyes. A conspiracy reaches to the Boston criminal underworld. The whispered phrase ‘the House of Silk’ hints at a deadly foe. Authorized by Doyle’s estate.
Before I even start to review the contents of this book I need to spend time on the cover. I picked up a hard cover copy and the jacket was what initial drew me to it. It is a rich midnight blue in colour, and the feel of it… well it feels like silk. The choice of cover was very well thought out and fits perfectly with the book.
As to the book itself, if you are a die-hard Sherlock Holmes aficionado the statement of it being a Sherlock Holmes novel may be the hook for you; combined with the fact that it has been approved and endorsed by the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and you would possibly be running to have the bookstore take your money. It is at this point I feel I need to warn you, this is not, obviously written by ACD. In fact anyone who reads this would do well to remember that it is written by a current, modern day Author Horowitz and therefore will deviate dramatically from those early ACD novels.
Having said this, Horowitz does an outstanding job of staying as true as possible to the original characters, including Mycroft; they all possess the same sense of presence that carried them through the earlier novels by ACD. My only complaint with the characters, and this was mainly a dialogue issue with Watson, was his insistence in places throughout the novel to call Holmes by his given name of Sherlock. I may have missed it when reading the original works, but I can’t ever remember him doing this on any of those pages. Horowitz excellently propels old favourites such as Mrs. Hudson in the hands of the younger reader, and she is still the long suffering landlady older readers will remember. One aspect of the characters I did like from this Author, was the way in which he addressed the disdain Holmes always had for Lestrade and also how, with the hindsight that comes as we age, the way in which Watson was able to really analysis his relationship not only with Holmes, but with his marital partner.
The locales in which this novel takes place are equally invocative of the older novels, while at the same time adding a new dimension to the Holmes legacy. As ACD was writing about his famous detective as living in the same time period as himself, it was difficult for him to be objective or even, in some cases to see what exactly was going on in the streets of London and beyond; Horowitz is not limited by this as he has the annals of history to use to flesh out the era. He uses this to great effect, and also to put into context some areas of society that ACD would not have included either through his own ignorance of them, or because he did not want to offend his readers. Through the words of this Author, London in this time period came more to life than they ever did for me in the ACD novels, and this greatly added to my enjoyment of this novel.
This is no loose modern remake, and I would highly recommend this book to all readers who enjoy a good mystery, also lovers of historical fiction as it satisfies both genre requirements.