Conan Doyle. It is called The House of Silk, and it's by the author of Alex Rider, Anthony Horowitz.
As a major fan of the Conan Doyle canon, and most adaptations of my favourite Consulting Detective, I was super-excited to start this book, and I was certainly not disappointed.
This story is set in 1890, and it is written as Watson's last story in the Sherlock Holmes adventures. It follows two very different crimes, which seem completely different, stretching over two countries and lots of different characters. These cases can't be connected, although there continues to be parallels between the two… As the world's most celebrated detective duo fall deeper into the case of 'The House of Silk' they realise that this is no simple ordeal, and things quickly turn dark and sinister…
I most definitely recommend it to other Holmes fans or maybe even new Holmes fans with a basic knowledge…
So go and read it then come back and we can discuss!
Okay! Let's get started!
Firstly, the differences between this novel and the original canon. I know little things would bug the heck out of most traditional Holmes fans, however, when it comes to retellings like this, small differences don't irritate me. To me, I feel like these little differences are what the new author does to put their own spin on the story, to make it their own. It's a lot like fanfiction- if every Harry Potter fic was written in the exact image of JK's prose, I think I might go mad. So in my opinion, the little differences are totally acceptable, if not encouraged. I'd love to know other opinions on this, however, so leave a comment if you agree or don't!
One of the main differences for me was the way Watson wrote. In this retelling, Watson's prose was very much more descriptive, detailed and arguably more beautiful than Conan Doyle's Watson. In a crime fiction, particularly in Sherlock stories, there is a lot of dialogue, and I feel like this novel balanced the masses of dialogue out nicely with very pretty prose and description, where the originals did not.
I also feel like in this novel, a lot more of the emotional side of the case was shown. In the originals, Watson is very much all about the crime and the actual facts of the case, whereas in this, I felt that we were much more inside Watson's head, and less so Sherlock's incredible mind. Although I loved seeing more of the relationship between Sherlock and John develop, I did feel like we missed out on a lot of Sherlock's thought process and how he thinks things through. In the originals, you are constantly in awe of Sherlock and his intellectual ability, as Conan Coyle intended. Although I loved this book very much, I did feel like this was excluded just a bit.
One of the main complaints I have noticed in multiple other reviews I've read was the slight modernisation of Horowitz's prose. My thoughts on this claim can be summed up quite accurate by- "eh." Yes, there was definitely some modernisation of the prose, however, as I mentioned earlier, this isn’t a Conan Doyle novel, and nor should it be, therefore why should it be an exact replica of the way he writes? The fact little things (such as the classic "the game is afoot" being changed to "the game's afoot") have been changed does not bother me one bit, and just shows that this is NOT an ACD novel.
Despite everything that I have said here, I still think this book is a great novel, and I still love the original Conan Doyle stories. There is no Sherlock story that could ever be better than the originals. Okay glad that's cleared up.
So this mystery was extremely intricate, and was not exactly foreseeable from the start, as with any good Holmes novel. There were some things that were easily guessed, such as the body of Keegan O'Donohague not being Keegan O'Donohague, and the involvement of Mr and Mrs Carstairs in criminal activity.
But majority of the plot twists were exactly as a plot twist should be. I did not expect Sherlock to end up in prison, and during the time he was, I was just as sad and downcast as John was. It is clear that without Sherlock Holmes, the books simply are not as fun. However, this was used to advantage the story, because the happiness I was filled with when the doctor's assistant was in fact Sherlock was almost immeasurable. That I also did not see coming.
Staying on the scene of Sherlock's escape, this was where I was pulled briefly out of this beautiful fictional world, because I couldn't help but feel some areas of this mystery were manufactured around the ultimate result, and that things almost feel too neatly into place. It's one of my few complaints about this novel, but I managed to get over it and immerse myself back into the story. This is where I feel that ACD always does a fabulous job- his mysteries and stories never felt forced or fake, and he always made them obscure but not so obscure they were unbelievable. This was part of his genius that I will forever be in awe of.
The whole resolution was rather unexpected. I never would've guessed that Mrs Carstairs was Keegan O'Donohague, not even with the subtle hints. And The House of Silk was also something I could never have guessed; a thought so horrific would never have even crossed my mind. I was more thinking it would be an underground criminal network, or a cult, and I must say, would have preferred if it was.
Moving away from the actual story and into characters, I loved the interactions between Holmes and Watson. Because of the slightly more modern approach to the story, their relationship reminded me very much of Sherlock BBC, the TV series which is undoubtedly my favourite Sherlock adaptation of all. If you are unfamiliar with it, it is extremely popular and stars Benedict Cumberbatch. If you don't know who he is, google him. You're welcome.
Anyways, the way they interacted and spoke to each other was just so adorable, you could really see just how close they were, and whether ACD intended it to be that way in the canon, I don't really know, because this high level of clear friendship was never present in his stories. (even more respect for John/Sherlock brotp)
I loved the way Watson blindly believed Sherlock when piles of evidence stacked up against him, and I think one of the saddest things in this book for me was when Watson would flick back to the present, and talk about Sherlock being dead. He would write things about Sherlock's obituaries, and suddenly I'd see Sherlock dead and John left alone. And the last line almost brought tears to my eyes, in fact, the whole afterword was extremely sad. "It is Sherlock Holmes who is playing. It must be. I hope with all my heart that he is playing for me…".
These parts brought back painful memories of the Reichenbach episode of Sherlock BBC. (Go watch it. The whole show. NOW.)
One of my favourite things in this book was Moriarty's brief scene. When John was sitting at that dinner table, and when the man started talking about being a criminal and sending Sherlock a message, or a hint, I was sure it was Moriarty. I was sure that I had just witnessed an appearance of my favourite Consulting Criminal. I was so glad in the end when John cleared it up and confirmed that it probably was Moriarty, because it was a loose end I was waiting to see tied.
However I was sad that John never mentioned it to Sherlock, I would've loved to see his reaction, or what he thought of it.
All in all, this was a fantastic novel, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. It was a tribute to Conan Doyle that will probably sit on my list of favourites, but I would love to know your opinion also. What did you think about The House of Silk? Leave a comment and your twitter name and I'll shout you out and or follow you. :)
Have a lovely day,