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The House Of Silk

July 26, 2017

Writing a new Sherlock Holmes mystery must be somewhat akin to the discipline of telling ghost stories around a campfire. To carry it off successfully, you’ve got to 1) stay strictly within the narrow confines of the genre, 2) provide oddly precise details about the characters and context of the story, 3) create unexpected plot twists for an audience that is expecting unexpected plot twists, and 4) bring the story to a satisfying conclusion—not necessarily a “happily ever after, all is right with the world” conclusion, but at the very least an “in a dark and troubled world where evil, danger and horror lurk at every turn, our hero—flawed, mystifying and annoying as he may be—remains who he was: a brilliant, fearless and unvanquished defender of justice, goodness and order.

In The House Of Silk, Anthony Horowitz shoulders this burden with the added weight of writing the first Sherlock Holmes story commissioned by the Arthur Conan Doyle Estate since the great man’s death. And he carries it off splendidly. Horowitz immerses his readers in the literary voice of an aged Dr. Watson recounting one of Holmes’ greatest cases:

“No, the events which I am about to describe were simply too monstrous, too shocking to appear in print. They still are. It is no exaggeration to suggest that they would tear apart the entire fabric of society and, particularly at a time of war, this is something I cannot risk. When I am done, assuming I have the strength for the task, I will have this manuscript packed up and sent to the vaults of Cox and Co. in Charing Cross, where certain others of my private papers are stored. I will give instructions that for one hundred years, the packet must not be opened….”

It is, for Holmes fans, a voice that is intimately familiar, both reassuring and titillating, with the promise—richly fulfilled by Horowitz—of a thrilling, quirky and thoroughly satisfying yarn.

“But I have wasted enough energy on my own preoccupations. I should have already opened the door of 221B Baker Street and entered the room where so many adventures. began. I see it now, the glow of the lamp behind the glass and the seventeen steps beckoning me up from the street. How far away they seem, how long ago since last I was there. Yes. There he is, with pipe in hand. He turns to me. He smiles. ‘The game’s afoot….”

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