Saturday, January 4, 2014

Review: House of Silk

When you get your hands on The House of Silk — and trust me, you want to! — plan to do nothing for the next few days but read. Anthony Horowitz's novel is a rip-roaring, non-stop adventure with shocks and surprises on every page.

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson may be the rage thanks to the BBC, but this book will do its part to boost his popularity.

The premise is intriguing: Watson recorded the details of a case so shocking, so awful, that it had to be kept sealed and hidden for a century after it occurred.

The story is simple — well, as simple as Holmes can permit. Holmes is approached by an art dealer who feels threatened by a figure stalking his home after he recently returned from American on a work-related matter. Is it the man from America come to seek revenge? Before we can answer that question, there is death, violence and a silk ribbon wrapped around the wrist of a street urchin. Thus they enter the House of Silk — something so diabolical, so secret that even those who know don't know but to know they shouldn't know, and neither should Sherlock.

And what a story. Horowitz has a way of hinting at the future while remaining grounded in the story's present. He introduces a few Baker Street regulars in a way that offers a possibly new way to view them. He weaves intrigue into every encounter, making the reader's guesses all that more fun when they see how wrong, or how right, they are.

The characters are well-presented, the story taut with suspense and intrigue, the writing concise but rich in detail and precise language.

In the end, it maintains the myth but helps reveal just enough of the man that is Sherlock Holmes (and Watson) to earn its authorization from the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It's new but not too new, it's old hat but in a warm and familiar way, and it is indeed shocking and awful a story that could only be told in today's world.

Walk through London and its suburbs during the waning years of the 19th century with two trusted characters and learn about the town, its people and its history. It's rooted in its time and place, but surprisingly modern, with the rich language of its time trimmed just enough to fit on both the pages of today and yesterday.
I recommend this book, but only if you're ready to read into the wee hours of the night, then pick it up first thing in the morning, and stay in its pages until long after you've finished reading it. It's that good.

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