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Bookends: The Adventure of the House of Silk February 3, 2012

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends.
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Bookends: The Adventure of the House of Silk

By Dan Davidson

December 14, 2011    Star, December 16/11

– 748 words –

The House of Silk: A Sherlock Holmes Novel 

By Anthony Horowitz

Mulholland Books

304 pages


Of pastiches relating to the saga of Sherlock Holmes there seems to be no end. Because the Holmes character, first published in 1887, has been in the public domain for decades, the temptation to add to the four novels and 56 short stories penned by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has been irresistible.

Writers have either written about Holmes directly, used characters from the canon (John Gardener wrote several books featuring Moriarity) or created similar characters (August Derleth’s Solar Pons was one of the best).

I myself have had, at one time or another, dozens of affectionate extensions of the Great Detective’s life and work haunting my shelves. In one of my sporadic attempts to downsize out library, most of them ended up at Well Read Books a few years ago.

I kept the short story anthologies, of which there are a good many, because, to my mind at least, Holmes is at his best in the shorter form. His creator, Conan Doyle, tended to use Holmes as a framing device in longer form stories, which then spend most of their pages exploring the events that lead to whatever mystery Holmes has been approached to solve. The short stories are more tightly written and keep the focus on Holmes and Watson.

Anthony Horowitz is the latest writer to undertake a full-length novel. He has a good pedigree for this sort of thing. You know his television work from many of the British adaptations of Hercule Poirot, as well as the modern day Midsommer Murders and the Foyle’s War series.

As a novelist he has produced the juvenile Alex Rider series and two other series for teens, and he is said to be writing the script for the second of Steven Spielberg’s projected series of TinTin movies.

Just under a year ago the Conan Doyle estate announced that he would be the first to undertake an addition to the Holmes’ saga with their official endorsement.

Like many of these tales, this one purports to be story which Watson wrote but held back for some reason. These are often said to be found in a battered dispatch box which has been found by his heirs. In the preface to the present story, Watson explains that the events investigated by Holmes in this case uncovered truths that were just too shocking for the Victorian era in which they took place. In addition to this, however, it is clear that Watson became privy to some facts in 1890 that he didn’t want Holmes to know, and so chose to embargo the story.

“… the events which I am about to describe were simply too monstrous, too shocking to appear in print. They still are.”

So Watson wrote this story about 1915, some time after the death of his great friend; wrote the story, packed it up and put it into storage, with instructions that it not be opened for 100 years.

Apparently Horowitz managed to pry it open a few years early.

Holmes is approached by Mr. Carstairs, an art dealer who believes his life is in danger from some American gangsters. He was involved in foiling an art theft and one of the leaders of the gang was killed in the case. The other, he believes, is out to get him.

Holmes attempts to get to the bottom of the case bring him into conflict with a secret society known as the House of Silk, a society so powerful that it manages to thwart even his brother Mycroft’s attempts to learn about it.

In the midst of this, one of Holmes Baker Street Irregulars is killed and, while attempting to get to the bottom of that murder, for which he feels responsible, Holmes is drugged and framed for the murder of the boy’s sister and ends up in prison, awaiting trial.

How he escapes, what happens next, what is the secret of the House of the Silk and the truth behind the strange events at the Carstairs’ house, are things that I will leave you to find out for yourselves. You will also witness Watson’s first meeting with Holmes’ greatest enemy, a meeting about which he never told his friend. It’s a very worthwhile investigation, and Horowitz has truly captured the tone and feel of the original stories.




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Bookends: The Adventure of the House of Silk | klondykewriter

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