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Off the Shelves: The House of Silk stays true to original Sherlock Holmes
Dark, complex mystery unfolds in latest reincarnation of Doyle's super sleuth
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‘The House of Silk'

By Anthony Horowitz

Five out of five bookmarks

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's classic crime-solver, Sherlock Holmes, has been represented in several different forms, especially in the past few years.

Anthologies of "new" adventures of Sherlock Holmes by modern authors have been released; a fictional journal gave a new perspective on Doyle and his characters in Graham Moore's "The Sherlockian;" and the recent steampunk-flavored Sherlock Holmes movies have given a more action-packed punch to the franchise.

Yet do any of these new versions of Holmes and Watson stay true to the original source material? Probably not, although I cannot make an accurate comparison as I have, sadly, not yet thoroughly read Doyle's novels.

I believe, however, the latest Holmes narrative, approved by the Arthur Conan Doyle estate, keeps true to the tone and atmosphere of Doyle's creation and gives readers an engrossing story.

"The House of Silk" is penned by the author of the popular "Alex Rider" series, Anthony Horowitz. It breathes new life into Doyle's detective while retaining what has captivated fans of the original stories.

Horowitz's incarnation of the iconic master of induction takes him and the ever loyal, vigilant Dr. John Watson on an evolving expedition that leads both of them into the deepest, darkest secrets of Victorian-era London.

What begins as a deceptively simple case — an art dealer is being stalked by a gang leader wanting revenge for the murder of his twin brother, which the dealer was indirectly responsible for — morphs into something far more grotesque. Soon the suspect they are pursuing is found dead, a 13-year-old boy in Holmes' Baker Street Irregulars is beaten to death and his throat cut, and Holmes is delivered an unusual and ominous warning: a length of white silk ribbon, the same as those found on each of the murdered victims' wrists.

Rumors and whispered words pertaining to an enigmatic House of Silk urge the detective to root out its connection to the murders. But soon Holmes is in a situation even he cannot reason his way out of when he is accused of killing a young girl, with witnesses to testify against him. Watson, left to his own devices and powers of judgment, must find a way to save his friend.

I appreciate how Horowitz keeps everything plausible and down to earth in his story, unlike so many of the over-the-top Holmes "fan fictions" of late where authors try to stamp their own personal mark on the character.

It is also nice to see Watson get his due, after all the years of being portrayed in television series and movies as the slightly less astute sidekick. Here he has to pursue the case of the House of Silk on his own, as Sherlock is temporarily indisposed when in prison.

Horowitz treats all the characters with dignity and honesty, but he also makes his villains truly insidious, even causing our normally cool-tempered heroes to want to deliver swift-handed justice themselves. And there is a very sizeable cast here, which keeps the reader guessing as to how everyone and every event will eventually tie together.

Outside of being a Sherlock Holmes adventure, the story itself is a gripping, complex mystery that keeps surprises its readers. The settings, characters and situations run the whole gamut of possibilities. The final revelations are both mortifying and unexpected, and will not disappoint.

While there have been plenty of new Sherlock Holmes adventures on the market, "The House of Silk" is, I believe, the most satisfying and true for those who love the original stories. For those who are not familiar with Doyle's work, this novel stands well enough on its own, and maybe it will inspire some to go back and read up on the other escapades of London's legendary hero.

Alison Reeger Cook is a Gainesville resident whose Off the Shelves book review appears every other week in Sunday Life. Know of a good book to review? Email her to tell her about it. Her column appears biweekly and at gainesvilletimes.com/life.

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