The last book I read in 100 words: The House of Silk: The New Sherlock Holmes Novel by Anthony Horowitz

by Stephen Tall on February 1, 2012

The House of Silk: The New Sherlock Holmes Novel, Anthony Horowitz

I hadn’t realised quite what a fan of Anthony Horowitz I am until I came to look at his back catalogue: he created Foyle’s War, perhaps the best of all original TV detective series, adapted many of the David Suchet Poirots, and co-wrote the darkly comic Murder Most Horrid. For all of which I can forgive him the comfort-wallpaper of hoary old Midsomer Murders.

The House of Silk is pitch-perfect homage, as close to Conan Doyle as you might wish to tread without straying into pastiche: there are Irish gangs, wealthy Americans, opium dens, street urchins, oleaginous clerics, and scandal that reaches to the very highest echelons in Victorian society. If the supposedly too-shocking-to-reveal-for-100-years ending seems all too commonplace to modern eyes it is in keeping with Watson’s own disbelief at such depravity.

In his review for the Wall Street Journal, DJ Taylor offers very fair praise:

Where the novel really succeeds is in Mr. Horowitz’s understanding that, in extending the careers of these great fictional titans, the burlesque element is impossible to resist. No matter how devious the mystery, and violent the detail, no alert reader of “The House of Silk” will be able to spend more than a half-dozen pages in its company without wanting to laugh. All this is a good sign, for it confirms the position in which a contemporary writer ought to stand toward another, greater, writer he is bent on imitating.

In the e-book edition, there is a (very interesting) afterword from Horowitz himself ‘On Writing The House of Silk’, where he adds, “I hope I won’t sound arrogant when I say that I think it is my best work.” And he’s quite right.