The game’s afoot once again…

The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz

The vogue for new writers keeping others’ literary characters alive has never been stronger. I would wager that no one character has continued to be written more about than Sherlock Holmes, although James Bond must be getting close.

Most of the non-Fleming Bond novels are, however, officially commissioned by the Fleming estate. This is not the case with Holmes, but that doesn’t mean that they are necessarily bad at all – Laurie R King’s Mary Russell books in which an ageing Holmes takes on a new female apprentice (my review of the first one here) are rather fab, but unauthorised.

Which leads me to Anthony Horowitz’s novel The House of Silk which is fully sanctioned by the ‘Conan Doyle Estate Ltd’ – viz the red seal on the front cover of the hardback edition.

Horowitz will be mostly known to many as a writer of adventure novels for older children – The Alex Rider and Power of Five series are popular and, so I’m told, brilliant fun. He is also, however, the creator of two long-running TV detective series – The Midsomer Murders and the WWII-set Foyle’s War, and has long said that Sherlock Holmes has been his inspiration, so upon reflection – an ideal choice for continuing the Holmesian canon…

This was our November read for book group, and we discussed it last Monday over our Christmas curry outing. Despite a table laden with spicy delights, we did manage to talk a little about the book!

I won’t dwell on the plot suffice to say it is suitably complex, but clues are there, and you do get a sense of certain characters having a bad side to them. All the features you’d expect are present from the Baker Street Irregulars gang of urchins, to the peasouper fogs, opium dens, bent coppers, lots of nasty Victorian gents and murder.

The novel is narrated by Doctor Watson, as are all the Holmes stories.  After Holmes’ death at his home on the Downs, (not the Reichenbach Falls), Watson is recounting some of the stories he has not been able to tell so far, and had been kept in a vault for one hundred years – a neat little device to explain the new stories. (Yes, stories – apparently Horowitz is writing another.)

The book was easy to read, page-turning and thoroughly enjoyable, and everybody in our group liked it.  Indeed, it awakened an enthusiasm in several of us to read some of the originals (again). We would have liked a bit more Victorian detail in the locations, but that was a small quibble.

One thing we did discuss was whom we all envisaged our Holmes to be – you can’t help read a book whose lead character has been filmed so many times without a vision of one of these incarnations popping into your head. For some it was the ‘original’ Basil Rathbone, for others Jeremy Brett, for me Benedict Cumberbatch has superceded any other actor who may have played Sherlock in my mind; no-one went for Robert Downey-Jr.

So great fun and a good addition to the Holmes canon. (8.5/10)

Source: Own copy. To explore further on Amazon UK, please click below:
The House of Silk: The New Sherlock Holmes Novel (Sherlock Holmes Novel 1)by Anthony Horowitz (2011), Orion paperback, 416 pages

16 thoughts on “The game’s afoot once again…

  1. heavenali says:

    I love Holmes stuff – and I thoroughly enjoyed this one – which I read shortly after it came out. When it was released I saw part of an interview with Anthony Horrowitz who said House of Silk was definitely a one off and as a Holmes fan I was disappointed. Recently I heard a vague rumour somewhere that there was going to be more and rather whooped for joy. I haven’t read many other Holmes books by other authors apart from some of the Mary Russell series (I adore Laurie R King) I have books 9 and 10 tbr. Though I did read a collection of Holmesian short stories by Paul Nash which I thoroughly enjoyed.

    • gaskella says:

      I must get on and read more of the Laurie R King books – I have several, of the later ones, but am looking for more of the earlier ones as I like to read them in order.

      • heavenali says:

        one tip Oh Jerusalm is number 5 – but can read as number two as the events in it chronologically speaking take place at about the same time as events in Bee Keeper’s apprentice – and Mary and Holmes are at about the same stage in their partnership/relationship.

  2. litlove says:

    I read this a while back and loved it. It was like the original Sherlock Holmes only without the dull bits! Glad you and your book club enjoyed it too.

  3. kaggsysbookishramblings says:

    Glad to hear this is so good, Annabel, as I have this on the TBR! I haven’t read all the spin-offs, but one of my favourites is “The Italian Secretary” by Caleb Carr. I think this was an official one and it had some really spooky moments! As for who I visualisse – Rathbone or Brett, depending on my mood!

    • gaskella says:

      Now you see I never watched Jeremy Brett’s Holmes on TV (our household was a bit anti ITV at the time – not now though!) I’ve not read any of Caleb Carr’s books – I think I have one somewhere…

      • kaggsysbookishramblings says:

        Brett’s Holmes is inspired, but I think maybe a bit intense for some!

        Caleb Carr wrote two wonderful period mysteries, “The Alienist” and “The Angel of Darkness” which featured the same ensemble cast of characters. I loved them, but alas he never wrote any more in the series – highly recommended!

  4. Nordie says:

    I’m part way through listening to the Audiobook, narrated by Derek Jacobi and I really need to get back to it or start again.

    As to the playing of Holmes himself…..I think I prefer Basil tbh. I think Brett was an inspired, intense version, badly let down by people walking round in dubious stuck on beards. Benny Cumberbatch is rather delish, but would he be able to play it straight and Victorian? Dont know. Never seen RDJ (swoon) do it, and am avoiding watching the show with Lucy Lu in it.

    Next question for you: portrayals of Poirot and Marple. Discuss

    • gaskella says:

      ‘dubious stuck on beards’ – I can picture it now!

      I do think Cumberbatch could do it straight – I’ve seen him as Frankenstein in the National Theatre production, and he did period in the William Golding ‘To the ends of the earth’ on TV, so a yes for me. The RDJ (swoon from me too) films are great fun and Jude Law is good in them too. I’ve not seen Elementary either…

      I can only see David Suchet as Poirot and Joan Hickson as Marple – never Albert Finney or Geraldine McEwan resp. What about you?

      • Nordie says:

        Try and watch the repeats on ITV3 and you’ll see what I mean! I dare you to watch and not spend the entire episode trying to work out where the glue went!

        It is Suchet and Hickson for me too, but in reading the books, McEwan is the closest the character in the books.

        I love the story of how Suchet got the job – he’d just finished filming one with Usitnov as Poitot, where Suchet is playing Japp and he gets a phonecall going “anyway….”. 25 years later

  5. Alex says:

    I’ve always loved Horowitz as a writer for children, discovering his work long before Alex Rider hit the shelves and still believing that his ‘The Falcon’s Maltezer’ is one of the funniest books (either for children or adults) ever written. I hummed and aahhed about this when it first came out but not being a Holmes fan I decided to pass. Perhaps I should give way to my admiration for Horowitz and pick up a copy.

    Talking about actors who have played Holmes has reminded me that I used to have a friend who was obsessed with Jeremy Brett. She followed him all over the country and I suspect was lucky not to be seen as a stalker.

  6. Col says:

    I read some of the Alex Rider books to the kids in my class when I was teaching. I loved the original Sherlock stories but yet hadn’t fancied this when it came out. It seemed a bit sacrilegious really! But I think I was wrong – I’m planning to read the 007 book Solo soon so what’s good for 007 is good for Sherlock. I liked your review and the sound of this – so it’s another for my list! As for a favourite Sherlock, in our house there is nothing and nobody to beat Benedict Cumberbatch!

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