Wednesday, January 21, 2015

What We're Reading: Sherlock Holmes

While Batman is often described as the world’s greatest detective, Sherlock Holmes must surely be the world’s best known. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s consulting detective has been thrilling readers for almost 130 years with his masterful uses of reasoning, disguise and deduction to solve seemingly any crime. Doyle’s original Holmes adventures can be found in four novels and 56 short stories. These have been adapted to stage, radio, television and film, and the characters have been used by many authors for additional adventures as well. One of these new adventures is The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz.

Holmes has died, and Dr. John Watson, in his advanced age, has decided to document an adventure that he found simply too shocking and monstrous to write about when it occurred. He has made arrangements with his solicitors to hold the manuscript for 100 years before releasing it for publication, in the hope that, at the very least, all involved will have passed away (and be spared the shame of being associated with the exploits recounted). Watson also hopes that the sensibilities of future readers will enable them to deal better with the ramifications of the case than his contemporaries.

It all begins when Edmund Carstairs, a London fine art dealer, requests Holmes’s help. He is being menaced by a strange man with a scar who wears a flat cap. He believes the man is part of a criminal gang from Boston, where a robbery occurred involving several paintings from Carstairs’s firm. He believes the man has followed him back to London, and Carstairs needs Holmes’s assistance to determine who he is and what he wants. Holmes agrees to help, but then Carstairs’s home is robbed. While appearing to be a simply break-in, this seemingly simple theft will lead Holmes and Watson into a web of intrigue and conspiracy that reaches into the highest levels of London’s elite families and to the depths of the lowest depravities.

In House of Silk, the game is again afoot! Author Anthony Horowitz captures the tone and sensibility of Victorian London found in Doyle’s original works, and takes readers on a rousing adventure. All of the elements necessary to the enjoyment of a Holmes aficionado are present, within a completely new mystery. And Horowitz is so skilled at recreating the Holmes oeuvre that The House of Silk is one of the few Holmes pastiches to receive the endorsement of the Doyle estate. The House of Silk is an enjoyable visit from a friend we might not have been expecting, but will enjoy nonetheless!

An important final note: Horowitz does shine a light on some of the darker elements of the Victorian existence that Doyle would never have approached himself, and the crux of the mystery presented lies in one of these dark corners. Some readers may find the solution to the mystery distasteful.

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