(5. – 935.) House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz – It has been some time since I read a currently written Sherlock Holmes novel. My last 21st Century experiences were with the Holmes novels of Donald Thomas.
The book opens with displays of clever Holmesian deduction through observation that strongly reminded me of Arthur Conan Doyle’s original Holmes.
Holmes confounds the faithful Watson by deducing from a swift look at Watson that not only has Watson’s wife left London to help care for a child ill with influenza but that Watson has left home in a hurry and missed a train.
While Watson contemplates the brilliance of Holmes a visitor, the wealthy art dealer Edmund Carstairs, arrives to seek the assistance of Holmes. He is concerned for his safety because of a mysterious stranger who is following him. With a flair for turning the mundane to the distinctive Horowitz has the stranger “wearing a hat, a flat cap for the sort that is sometimes called a cheesecutter”. It is the cap which makes the stranger memorable to the elegant Carstairs. Not because of its humble style but due to its connection with America.
Carstairs has recently travelled to the United States to pursue justice against a gang that killed an agent of Carstairs during the robbery of a train. The group of Irish American felons are known as the Flat Cap Gang.
As Holmes and Watson search for the mysterious stranger Holmes calls upon his Baker Street Irregulars. The homeless boys of the London streets are extremely efficient in collecting information and seeking out individuals.
A new member, Ross Dixon, is successful in finding the stranger. The young teenager displays an unexpected fear outside the hotel of the stranger but refuses to divulge what has made him fearful.
The investigation takes Holmes and Watson into a dangerous evil conspiracy that even Holmes’ renowed brother, Mycroft, with all his government connections cannot penetrate and causes Mycroft to warn Holmes of the danger of investigating the House of Silk.
Readers know Holmes will not be deterred and the detective plunges forward.
It was a pleasure to see Holmes escape a very dangerous situation, impossible to Watson, through his wits and talents at disguise.
It is a good Sherlock Holmes novel but not one to rival the best of the current generation of Holmes’ novels. I think the early books in the series of Laurie R. King featuring Holmes and Mary Russell are better.
I found the conspiracy interesting and its nature monstrous but it is so hard to have a convincing vast conspiracy about which nothing is known by a figure such as Holmes with his vast memory and connections everywhere in London.
To suspend my disbelief with regard to a conspiracy I find it easier with more modest conspiracies for which there is some knowledge whispered about city or country.
I appreciated the touch of the fastidious in dealing with the subject matter of the conspiracy. It was convinicing, as a story purportedly by Watson, not to provide a detailed portrayal of the actual wickedness at the heart of the conspiracy.
I enjoyed the depiction of the aggressive, risk taking Holmes with Watson in the traditional role of the somewhat helpful chronicler whose deductive powers are minimal. The House of Silk does not adopt the current conceit of the Watson’s created in this century to either match or at least be close to Holmes in detective skills.
The House of Silk captured my interest to see where Horowitz could take the series especially since Watson states within the book that The House of Silk will be his last story of Holmes. I have started the second, Moriarity, and am already intrigued.