My Kyrosmagica Review of The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz


Goodreads Synopsis:

Bestselling novelist and Holmes expert Anthony Horowitz will bring the great man to life again for a new generation of readers. As the creator of Foyle, recently voted the nation’s favourite TV detective at the ITV Crime Thriller Awards 2010, Anthony has already displayed his talent for plotting and characterisation. Having been a lifelong fan of Conan Doyle’s novels, he was the perfect choice to return to the original stories and create a new mystery for Holmes and Watson. Interest in Holmes has never been higher than right now. A blockbusting movie adaptation has coincided with the BBC’s intriguing modern update and both successes are to be repeated this autumn. Horowitz says: ‘I fell in love with the Sherlock Holmes stories when I was 16 and I’ve read them many times since. My aim is to produce a first-rate mystery for a modern audience while remaining absolutely true to the spirit of the original.’  

It is November 1890 and London is gripped by a merciless winter. Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson are enjoying tea by the fire when an agitated gentleman arrives unannounced at 221b Baker Street. He begs Holmes for help, telling the unnerving story of a scar-faced man with piercing eyes who has stalked him in recent weeks.
Intrigued, Holmes and Watson find themselves swiftly drawn into a series of puzzling and sinister events, stretching from the gas-lit streets of London to the teeming criminal underworld of Boston and the mysterious ‘House of Silk’…

Author info on Goodreads:

Anthony Horowitz, OBE is ranked alongside Enid Blyton and Mark A. Cooper as “The most original and best spy-kids authors of the century.” (New York Times). Anthony has been writing since the age of eight, and professionally since the age of twenty.

In addition to the highly successful Alex Rider books, he is also the writer and creator of award winning detective series Foyle’s War, and more recently event drama Collision, among his other television works he has written episodes for Poirot, Murder in Mind, Midsomer Murders and Murder Most Horrid. Anthony became patron to East Anglia Children’s Hospices in 2009. 

On 19 January 2011, the estate of Arthur Conan Doyle announced that Horowitz was to be the writer of a new Sherlock Holmes novel, the first such effort to receive an official endorsement from them and to be entitled the House of Silk.

My Review:

Antony Horowitz is without a doubt an excellent crime writer, one just has to look at his writing resume to see that. But moreover, he has an obvious love of Conan Doyle’s original stories. The House of Silk is a novel devoted to an accurate portrayal of Sherlock Holmes, Horowitz’s enthusiasm shines through, in a voice that speaks with great fluidity. In fact I’m quoting him here from his conception, inspiration and the ten rules of writing The House of Silk: “When I was asked to write the House of Silk, I realised that this would be the key. I had to become invisible. I had to find that extraordinary, authentic voice.” Well, in my opinion Horowitz does that and more, he invisibly keeps the fun factor in Sherlock, keeping us quietly smiling all the way through.

I loved reading crime novels as a teenager and reading The House of Silk seems to have taken me back to my teenage self, and my love of this genre. I was a huge fan of Raymond Chandler, and Agatha Christie, so it takes no Sherlock deduction to know that this love has been well and truly rekindled!

The House of Silk is told from the perspective of Sherlock’s trusted friend Dr. Watson. An air of secrecy surrounds the case of The House of Silk with many notable and powerful people wishing that its horrific and secretive nature remain forever hidden. Even though Sherlock Holmes is warned in no uncertain terms by his brother to stay out of it, Holmes disregards this advice,  thriving on yet another challenge.  The nature of the investigation is so horrific that it was recorded by Watson at the time, but is only revealed a century after the death of his esteemed friend Sherlock Holmes.

The year is 1890, the case begins with the familiar surroundings of 221B, Baker Street, with Sherlock enjoying, “a large plate of scones with violet honey and cream, along with a pound cake and tea,” all very familiar and nice, but in stark contrast with a crime of such gruesomeness, as you will see, if you read the novel.

Mrs. Hudson’s tea, scones, pound cake, honey and cream sounds wonderful, we all need a Mrs Hudson I reckon!

At a later point Mrs Hudson ushers in  Edmund Carstairs, an troubled Art Gallery owner, with a nervous disposition, who is disturbed by the sudden appearance of an Irish gang member that in the past damaged his paintings. Edmund Carstairs  believes that this man, a member of the flat cap gang, is out to get him. Holmes calls upon his young street urchins, including Wiggins, to assist him in his investigations,  and is shocked to find that one of them is brutally murdered too.

Be aware that Horowitz loves killing off people, its one of his self-confessed fortes!

Holmes shows a touch of remorse at allowing the young lad to get involved, in fact he is so disturbed by this turn of events that he becomes even more determined to bring the killer to justice.

This ultimately leads to Holmes arrival at an Opium Den, his framing, and arrest on suspicion of murder himself.  Watson has to come to his friend’s rescue, he must be the one to get him out of prison, so that Holmes can find the killer, and solve the mystery of the ailing Carstairs family.  In comparison to the superior intellect and keen wit of Holmes, Watson feels overwhelmed by feelings of inadequacy. I will not tell you how, or if, Holmes manages to escape that’s for you to find out!

The nature of the crimes committed at The House of Silk are so shocking  that even the most hardened of criminals wishes to help Holmes, and then Watson to solve the case. In the meantime, Carstair’s sister is suffering from some strange malady, poison is suspected, and the two stories begin to intertwine, and the final result is both shocking and gripping. Watson’s deep affection for his friend, and Holmes witty, dry, repartee, and amazing powers of observation and deduction, are all there to delight, and enthrall the reader. There is a deep sense of the social concerns, and shocking depravities that were allowed to exist at this time, making this a Sherlock Holmes novel with a different standpoint, a modern social conscience.

The book is longer than the original Conan Doyle stories but still manages to keep the reader entertained throughout.  The House of Silk covers two interconnecting cases, The Man in the Flat Cap and The House of Silk.  The Flat Cap appears to be a more traditional Conan Doyle type story, whereas the House of Silk, reads more like a modern day crime story, but the two work brilliantly well together. With some stunning reveals at the end of the case.

The usual characters make an appearance giving validity to the story: Mrs Hudson, Wiggins, Inspector Lestrade, Mycroft, the Baker street irregulars as well as a whole host of new characters, including Mr Carstairs, Carstair’s American wife, Carstair’s sister who hates Carstair’s wife, Cornelius Stillman, an American millionaire, The Boston gang, led by the O’Donaghue twins,  The reverend and his wife who run a home for orphaned, unfortunate boys, and a brief spell with Moriarty. There are plenty of exciting moments to keep the reader on his or her toes, I particularly loved the travelling fun fair episode.

There is a sequel, Moriarty, that I very much look forward to reading too.

My rating:

4.5 stars. Loved it!! Highly recommended to readers of detective, crime, mystery and thriller.


Favourite Quotations:

“Show Holmes a drop of water and he would deduce the existence of the Atlantic. Show it to me and I would look for a tap. That was the difference between us.”

“Childhood, after all, is the first precious coin that poverty steals from a child.”

“He had entered a veritable miasma of evil, and harm, in the worst possible way, was to come to us all too soon.”

“I think my reputation will look after itself,” Holmes said. “If they hang me, Watson, I shall leave it to you to persuade your readers that the whole thing was a misunderstanding.”

“It was quite elementary,’ returned the detective with a languid gesture of one hand.”

Have you read The House of Silk? Do leave a comment below I’d love to hear from you.

Bye for now,


Marje @ Kyrosmagica xx

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