Thank you so much for your comments on my first On my bookshelf post. I really enjoyed finding out about your own reading habits and tastes and I'm thrilled that this blog series is something that you're going to be interested in.
I'm SO excited to be talking about the very first book in this new blog series today.
The House of Silk | Anthony Horowitz
THE GAME'S AFOOT...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'...
What I thought...
One thing you need to know about me before reading my thoughts on this book is that I am an avid Sherlock Holmes fan. I love the short stories, the two films with Robert Downey Jr., the TV series 'Sherlock' with Benedict Cumberbatch (but not the Sky series 'Elementary'...that's awful!) and just the character in general. I love his quirkiness, his lack of social skills, his intelligence and his downright ability to be annoying. Arthur Conan Doyle created, in my opinion, one of the best literary characters the world has ever seen. I approached this new Sherlock Holmes story, therefore, with unease and low expectations but given that I had also had the same feelings before seeing the first Sherlock Holmes film and the TV series 'Sherlock' and adored them both instantly, I was willing to give it a go and read it with an open mind.
One other thing that you need to know is that The House of Silk is the first Sherlock Holmes item to have been written with the full endorsement of the Conan Doyle estate. Knowing that they surely would not have put their name to any old piece of rubbish (the Conan Doyle Estate Ltd. stamp is actually printed on the back of the book) was the second push I needed towards starting it. To me, it spoke volumes.
I started the book back in January (I think) and by February I had only read the first few chapters. There was a period of about 4 weeks where I didn't pick the book up at all and it lay unopened on my bedside table looking very sorry for itself. I can contribute this to two factors. 1) The fact that this was the first book I had read since my holiday accomplishment of finishing three in about a week automatically meant that I was bound to be a bit sluggish to start with. The pressure of the speed of my previous encounter with a book was something that hindered the enthusiasm with which I longed to start this new book. 2) There is a lot of background story to the plot, details of which can easily be forgotten if reading in a state of near-exhaustion, like in my case. I found myself having to read back a chapter or so before picking up from where I had left off. This frustrated me and I eventually gave up altogether.
The parts of Sherlock Holmes stories where the client is explaining a series of strange events is not my favourite as we don't get to see the wonderfully hilarious and brilliant interactions between Holmes and Watson, so on reflection it doesn't come as a surprise to me that those first few chapters weren't something that I particularly enjoyed. However, the client's account is always pivotal to the plot of the rest of the story and so it is necessary to give it your full attention. I returned to the book when I was in a better frame of mind and once I got past the place where I had initially abandoned it, I read the rest in a matter of days.
The plot is mysterious and cunning with the right amount of twists and turns. It is brilliantly written, to the point where I forgot that I was reading a Sherlock Holmes story NOT written by Arthur Conan Doyle. He truly does master Conan Doyle's writing style and capture the essence of the character in a way that, I'm sure, nobody else could. Even Anthony Horowitz himself has acknowledged that this is probably his best work. If I hadn't been working, I know I would have been able to read it in one day. Reaching the end of a chapter is never enough; you're always left wanting to read on, if only your droopy eyelids would let you.
From what I know of reading the original stories, the resolution of the mystery should not be something that you could have worked out yourself as the whole unveiling relies on the intellectual prowess of our friend, Sherlock. If ever there was a case where this was true, it is The House of Silk. The ending was, in short, a shock. Not only would I never have been able to guess the events myself, but what the reader is presented with is uncomfortable and disturbing. It is the only part of the book that does not seem like a Conan Doyle creation. Anthony Horowitz seems to have capitalised on that fact, however, by explaining at the start of the book Watson's intention that his account of events be kept out of the public sphere for many decades as it was a tale that was too horrific for society at the time to bear. This did not, however, take away from my enjoyment of the book and I put it down feeling my love for Sherlock Holmes as fervently as ever.
I would give this book...
Read this book if you enjoy...
Anything Sherlock-Holmes related, but particularly the original stories (if you have never read any, be prepared that this novel might get you reaching for them! or any sort of crime drama.
Well, I hope you enjoyed the first installment of my new blog series! Please let me know what you thought of the format of the review...is there anything I didn't talk about that you would have liked to have known about? I'm happy to adapt for next time!