A London art dealer comes to Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, reporting that he’s being followed by the leader of an American criminal gang bent on revenge. Because of art (paintings by John Constable) caught up and destroyed during a train robbery, and the busting up of the gang involved (and the death of its co-leader), the art dealer fears for his life.
Holmes and Watson are on the case, except the case is not quite as straightforward as it seems. The criminal is found murdered in his hotel room, tracked down by a boy involved in Holmes’ “Baker Street Irregulars.” The boy disappears and is later founded brutally murdered.
More is afoot that a revenge killing over a train robbery gone bad. Much more.
And so we’re drawn, almost catapulted, into Anthony Horowitz’s The House of Silk: A Sherlock Holmes Novel.
This is the first of Horowitz’s Sherlock Holmes novels, the second being Moriarity (which I reviewed here in April). Such is Horowitz’s reputation that these two books and are the only Holmes novels authorized by the Arthur Conan Doyle estate. (Horowitz, among numerous other works, was the writer for both the popular BBC and PBS series Foyle’s War and the long running detective series Midsummer Murders.)
The House of Silk takes us across London and its suburbs (Wimbledon was a suburb in the early 1890s), from the houses of the middle class to the smells and squalor of the East End. In the process we learn about the plight of orphaned children in Victorian England in institutional settings as well as on their own in a society that could crush them without thinking.
The author is true to both the Sherlock Holmes style and story signature – we think we see what’s coming, and it indeed comes, but it includes what we did and didn’t expect. Like Dr. Watson, we are left amazed by Holmes’ knowledge and deductions. Horowitz plays that extremely well in his Holmes novels, and keeps a surprise or two up his sleeve – just like Conan Doyle did in the original stories. And there's even a cameo appearance by Professor Moriarity.
Here’s to more Sherlock Holmes novels by Anthony Horowitz.