Regular readers of this blog should already know that I've read the entire Sherlock Holmes canon (the four novels and fifty-six short stories by Arthur Conan Doyle) and have seen several different Holmesian adaptations. My favourite adaptation is the BBC's Sherlock which is closely followed by Disney's The Great Mouse Detective. This non-canonical work by Anthony Horowitz might not be perfect or on a par with those adaptations but it's still a brilliant effort.
I was a pretty big fan of Horowitz's Alex Rider series when I was in my early teens but I still felt a fair amount of scepticism as to whether this book of his would be able to do Arthur Conan Doyle's characters any real justice. But it did! Horowitz imitates John Watson's narrative voice astonishingly well and nails Holmes and Watson's characters! If someone were to give me two random samples of Arthur Conan Doyle and Horowitz's writing and then ask me to say which author wrote what I honestly think I'd find it hard to tell the difference. Another thing that I loved about this book were all of its references to the canon. Previous adventures are referred to and there's an American gangster element to the story. Conan Doyle seemed to be fascinated with the new world so this is very much in keeping with the canon. Horowitz even has some of the Americans talking in Conan Doyle-esque slang! :D Secondary characters from the canon make appearances in this book as well. Lestrade, Mrs Hudson, Mycroft Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars all show up in this story and even Mary Morstan makes a brief appearance. There are a couple of other familiar faces in this story as well but I won't reveal who they are because I don't want to spoil everything.
I haven't even talked about the plot of this book yet. Well, that was extremely impressive too. The story doesn't have too much action but is still very thrilling, suspenseful and well-paced. There are a lot of twists and turns in the story as well. Yes, there were some things that I saw coming but then there were also some things that I didn't manage to predict. The book also features two seemingly-unconnected cases and Horowitz does a brilliant job in bringing the two of them together and then in tying them up.
Would I recommend this book? Yes, but not to everyone. Although I wouldn't say that a knowledge of the canon is absolutely essential I really can't imagine a newcomer to the Sherlock Holmes stories being able to appreciate it as much as a die-hard fan. Then there's the House of Silk itself because in the end it turns out that its members were doing something very, very evil. To give Horowitz some credit he does handle the subject matter with sensitivity. He doesn't dwell on it or go into any great detail about it (if he had then that would have significantly lowered my opinion of the book). And Horowitz did kind of need to come up with a horrible thing for the members to be doing in order for Watson's decision to shelve the story for so long make any sense. But it's still something that leaves me unable to recommend the book to younger readers.
The House of Silk is a brilliant effort and I was hugely impressed with it. Horowitz captures Watson's voice, the characters and the atmosphere of Victorian London. The plot is thrilling and there are lovely references to the canon. There's even a very interesting essay from Horowitz at the end where he talks about how he came to write his book and the 10 rules he set himself in order to capture the original stories' authenticity. I'll definitely be reading Horowitz's follow-up book Moriarty at some point.
Oh and just before I wrap this up I thought I'd provide a link because I'm sure it will be of interest to my readers: Mark Gatiss is a big fan of this book and reviewed it very favourably in a magazine which you can read here.