Book Review: The House of Silk


A few months ago I posted this article on my views about fan-fiction. In that post I mentioned the existence of sequels ‘authorised’ by the estate of deceased authors, but admitted I’d never read one. The House of Silk is my first. Written by Anthony Horowitz, The House of Silk is a Sherlock Holmes novel authorised by the Conan Doyle Estate.

I was given this book a year or so ago by someone who knew that I was a fan both of Sherlock Holmes and several of the TV series’ written by Horowitz, including Midsomer Murders, Foyle’s War and Poirot. This is the first time I have experienced any of his prose. I first attempted to read it soon after I received it, but for various reasons I managed only a few pages before it went back onto my TBR pile. At the time I probably would have told you that this was due to the fact that I found the different writing style slightly jarring – I was very aware that it was not by Conan Doyle. In truth I probably just wasn’t in the right frame of mind to be reading it. This week I decided I was ready to try it again, and found myself breezing through it very quickly.

A year after the death of Sherlock Holmes, Doctor Watson is living out his own final days in a nursing home. He takes up his pen one last time to write a story so shocking that he plans to leave it with his lawyers, with instructions not to publish it for 100 years. He recalls the day Holmes was approached by art dealer Edmund Carstairs to investigate a sinister man who has been seen watching his house. The events which followed lead Holmes and Watson into some of the darkest waters they’ve ever encountered, in pursuit of the mysterious ‘House of Silk’.

I said I read The House of Silk very quickly, and for the most part I enjoyed it, but there were a few flaws which disappointed. For example, I found that the frequent references to past cases were perhaps too frequent, and did not so much demonstrate Watson’s nostalgia for the old days as Horowitz’s familiarity with the Holmes canon.

While I won’t divulge the ending, I must confess that although the loose ends were all tied up, I was left slightly unsatisfied. This is a shame, as most of the narrative is a thrilling read and I don’t like to think that a few pages towards the end could spoil my opinion of the novel as a whole. With that said I would recommend The House of Silk to Holmes fans with a caution that while it is a very enjoyable read, it doesn’t quite live up to the genius of the original Conan Doyle stories, and has not improved my opinion of ‘authorised sequels’.

Categories: Books, Writing | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Book Review: The House of Silk

  1. No one will ever compare to Conan Doyle. It’s very brave of Horowitz to try, though.
    This kind of puts me in mind of half-hearted fan-fiction. You know those ones where the writer just drops bits and pieces from the canon they write even when they aren’t vital to the plot? I hate that. It’s like, if you knew the canon so well, you wouldn’t need to drop scenes so often.
    What do you think of the Austen recreations? (If you read Austen…)

    • I don’t read a lot of fan-fiction, but I know what you mean.

      I LOVE Jane Austen, and it’s partly because I’ve read a couple of really bad Pride and Prejudice re-creations that I tend to avoid fan-fiction and ‘authorised sequels’. That said, I’ve got P. D. James’ “Death comes to Pemberley” on my TBR, and I’m hoping that will be better…

      • Yeah. It’s kind of like historical fiction….you have to research everything but only put in the detail relevant to the story. That shows more knowledge than info-dumping. Or I think, anyways.

        I have the Pride and Prejudice “Choose Your Own Adventure” book at home. I think it’s pretty well done. I like the idea of what becomes of Lizzie if she doesn’t marry Mr Darcy. It’s very well done. But I haven’t touched any of the others, like the ones that follow the other Bennet sisters. Neither have I read “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”; just because classics should stay classics.

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