Monday, 8 July 2013

Book Review: Anthony Horowitz's "House of Silk"

Rating: ***

My heart hammered ferociously in my chest as I reached out and slowly removed the book from the shelf. The cover announced the book as “The new Sherlock Holmes novel” and as the Sunday Times’ bestseller. So far, it was promising. The blurb was even more so and the critical reviews on the back praised Horowitz’s latest book.
‘Could it be?’ I whispered to myself incredulously. Was it indeed Sherlock? The Sherlock? Apparently so, according to The Times: “Horowitz has captured Holmes Heaven.”
Imagine my excitement when I discovered how close I was to 221B Baker Street once more. After all these years, was it indeed possible that the world’s best (and probably only) consulting detective had been resurrected by a renowned author?
I began the book with very high expectations.
Inevitably, I was slightly disappointed.

“It is November 1890 and London is gripped by a merciless winter. Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson are enjoying tea by the fire when an agitated gentleman arrives unannounced at 221B Baker street. He begs Holmes for help, telling the unnerving story of a scar-faced man with piercing eyes who has stalked him in recent weeks.
Intrigued, Holmes and Watson find themselves swiftly drawn into a series of puzzling and sinister events, stretching from the gas-lit streets of London to the teeming criminal underworld of Boston and the mysterious ‘House of Silk’…”

The ever-faithful Watson begins his story by informing us that it is a number of years after Sherlock’s death and for reasons that are later made explicit in the story, it was impossible for the doctor to publish this story while his companion was alive.
Horowitz does a good job at capturing Watson’s style of writing (that is to say Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s style of writing) and for the greater part of the narrative, it is easy for one to forget that it is Horowitz and not Sir Arthur writing. However, there are parts where one can see typical Horowitzic narrative techniques (e.g. Those short, punchy, dramatic sentences), and personally, I think this gives the story a bit of flavour.
What I found disappointing was Sherlock. I was expecting the eccentric, enigmatic, hawk-eyed, formidable (I’m sure you get the gist of it) detective, but what Horowitz gives is a slightly less... Sherlock. In the words of Horowitz’s Watson, you could “show Holmes a drop of water and he would deduce the existence of the Atlantic. Show it to me and I would look for a tap”, but we do not see this Sherlock, the Sherlock that inspired awe with his superlative powers of deduction. Horowitz’s Sherlock is somewhat less profound than I expected, but then again, I wouldn’t expect anybody to be able to depict Sherlock as his creator did. Horowitz does not create those intricate details in which Sir Arthur’s Sherlock could deduce the life-story of someone.
Undoubtedly, it was my expectation of meeting the original Sherlock that disappointed me. Because I didn’t. I met someone else.
Having said that, one cannot fault the story line. It is intriguing, unpredictable, clever and exciting and the way Horowitz manages to link everything in the end, things that did not seem to be at all acquainted, is applaudable. Overall, it is a brave attempt by Horowitz, and the addition of his own signature moves provides a fresh take on the originals.

Verdict: A book that I would recommend you read. Be warned, though. If you are looking for the Real Sherlock Holmes, you may be disappointed. He has, alas, gone with his creator.