I’ll confess at the outset that I’m no expert or devoté to the Sherlock Holmes canon. I read a couple of shorter Doyle pieces as a lad, and think nobody will ever equal Jeremy Brett’s portrayal of the master detective on screen (although I am enamored of the latest from the BBC, “Sherlock,” particularly of the Dr. Watson character). But that’s the extent of my consciousness as far as the world-famous consulting detective goes. That, and the relatively recent and brief Michael Chabon piece.
So I approached “The House of Silk” as a relative novice. Curiosity led me to a search of the non-Doyle Holmes stories, and the Mayfield, Mass., library has a convenient list of at least 70 (http://www.wakefieldlibrary.org/book-discussion-groups/sherlock-holmes-by-doyle-and-others/). Proving my novice status, I had no idea there were that many.
This book is very strong and focused. We keep Dr. Watson’s point of view firmly throughout. The crimes that drive Holmes and us, are heinous indeed, and resonate as clearly today as ever. Mr. Horowitz inserts a few small touches which put us in mind of the series by Conan Doyle: Watson states he should have had more depth concerning Mrs. Hudson, the ever-present housekeeper. And he hopes Inspector Lestrade knows that Holmes and Watson did actually appreciate his work, even as the good inspector made great advances at Scotland Yard piggy-backing on work Holmes did.
If you’re a Holmes follower, this book will please you with Holmes’s bag of tricks and the close scrapes he gets into. If you don’t care that much about the great detective, this novel is worth your while for its atmospheric treatment of Victorian London, and the convolutions of its crime mystery plot.