Friday, July 19, 2013

The House of Silk (Anthony Horowitz)

The buzz about the book is this: it's the first novel that bears the seal of approval from the Conan Doyle Estate (see the little gold circle to the left). When my friend Oz gushed about it, I knew I had to read it as well. In tone, mood, and characterization, Anthony Horowitz's The House of Silk feels every bit like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes mysteries, only longer. I don't think fans will be disappointed with this new adventure at all.

Dr John Watson's familiar voice opens the book, keeping the glamour alive. I'm no expert on Holmes, but I find that his tone is eerily on point. Dr Watson hints at two mysteries. The first involves a certain Flat Cap Gang in America and an art sale gone wrong. The second takes place closer to home with a darker, more sinister air and sends Holmes and Watson on the trail of the titular House of Silk.

I love that The House of Silk contains a number of references to the original stories. It certainly adds to the idea that this, too, belongs to an older time. Other elements I enjoyed were the inclusion of a more sympathetic Inspector Lestrade and the uh, more pronounced expressions of friendship between Holmes and Watson. Of course, these all take a backseat to the mysteries themselves, which alternately depict grim vignettes in dark places and thrilling Hollywood-type rescues.

If there are any additions to the familiar Sherlock Holmes tale, I think it would be Horowitz playing up to the more modern expectations of what a mystery-suspense story should do. When reading the older Sherlock Holmes adventures, I feel that we're not really supposed to figure out the details ahead of our protagonists. There will be red herrings, there will be clues, but you will never get enough to put them all together. Snakes as murder weapons, when there have been no previous mentions of them. Dusty knees whose significance only Holmes knows. But I think the way mysteries are structured now, inviting readers to come to their own conclusions by laying enough crumbs to follow, makes for a more engaging reading experience. We get the chance to play armchair detectives along with our heroes. Mr Horowitz certainly does that in The House of Silk. He gives enough, withholds enough, so that when the truth is revealed, you get that lightbulb moment instead of feeling excluded from the heavy thinking.

I kept a running commentary with my friend, texting her my theories, which turned out to be true. Was I disappointed? Just a tiny bit. I figured if I could figure it out, then surely it shouldn't have been all that hard for Holmes, right? But one thing that saves it is that as in his older mysteries, Holmes keeps his cards close to his chest. He doesn't reveal much information to Dr Watson anyway, so I shouldn't really blame the good doctor for not jumping to the right conclusions. A better explanation is that the action builds at a good and steady pace that what matters are the mysteries of the moment, not the larger picture. If this is the direction where Mr Horowitz is taking Sherlock Holmes, then I am up for more.


Tin said...

Incidentally, I am reading the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. I am now on the 9th story (Engineer's Thumb) You are absolutely right about the readers not supposed to be getting ahead of our protagonists. We rely solely on Sherlock's genius to solve the mystery, which actually makes it all the more fun, seeing his brilliant deductive mind in action.

But I think I would still be interested in Horowitz's take on Sherlock. It's new and different. And when you mentioned "playing armchair detective", I am in! :)

Do you watch the BBC TV series, called Sherlock? :)

dementedchris said...

I love reading about Sherlock Holmes! I hope you enjoy the rest of the adventures. Every once in a while, I re-read them because I find that I see things differently. I guess Horowitz's book is telling me that it's time for a re-read haha.

I always play armchair detective. Sakit ko ata. I like keeping tabs on clues and hints so that when the reveal is made, I can go "So thaaat's what happened!" or "Aha! I knew it!", depending on the story. ;)

Yup, I know Sherlock! I watched the first ep but the disastrous second ep kept me away. People have been telling me to give it another try. Maybe soon :)

Osing said...

Glad you liked this book :) If you're planning to read or reread a Sherlock mystery, try The Adventure of the Copper Beeches. It's one of my favorites.