I have to admit those words give me a secret thrill.
Anthony Horowitz’s The House of Silk (the only Sherlock Holmes novel ever authorized by Conan Doyle’s estate) hints at two Sherlock Holmes stories which were too scandalous to be included in the canon. Watson, at rest in a nursing home and little troubled by his family, thinks it’s time to relay one of the most disturbing cases he and Holmes ever encountered. After shakily writing it down in longhand, Watson commits it for safekeeping, with further strict instructions that it not be opened until he has died and a hundred years have passed.
Initially the case is a standard one for Holmes. Edward Carstairs drops in on him, and a visiting Watson, for help with trouble relating to an American art deal gone awry. The case moves quickly toward a resolution, but not before Ross, one of the young Baker Street Irregulars in Holmes’s employ, is brutally murdered and cruelly tagged with the calling card of The House of Silk. Feeling a deep responsiblity for young Ross’s murder, Holmes will stop at nothing to solve the crime, but he finds that he is up against a well-connected mystery organization – one protected by those in the highest echelons of government and society- and that he is in grave danger.
The House of Silk is a highly diverting read for fans of the fabulous Baker Street boys, Holmes and Watson. Watson is jaunty but dim and Holmes is his usual keen, withering self. Horowitz cleverly distills the essence of both throughout the novel in their banter with each other, and in their dealings with faces familiar from past Conan Doyle stories. Holmes’s wit is up against limitless wealth and resources, so that just makes the daring escapades, covert plans and cryptic clues all the more fun, especially since Watson is mostly just along for the ride. Poor dear.
Really, to say too much about The House of Silk would ruin the experience of reading it. Suffice it to say that all of the elements – atmosphere, personal habits and turns of phrase – have been faithfully reproduced for the enjoyment of the Holmes’s fans. Clever twists and turns abound and though you may guess some of the mystery, you likely won’t guess it all. Highly recommended for fans of the doctor and the detective.