Recently I read my first Sherlock Holmes book (Hound of the Baskervilles) and came away feeling rather underwhelmed. I surmised it was because I’d been exposed to so much Holmsian entertainment, mostly of the film and television variety, not to mention all the countless narratives that have been influenced by Holmes. I know all the stories, the solutions to the mysteries, all of Holmes’ quirks and talents, so, actually reading the book, was a surprisingly plodding and unexciting affair much to my immense disappointment.
Despite that experience, I am still very interested in all things Holmesian so have had the House of Silk on my TBR for a while. Because of my experience, I suspected I may not be too sniffy about it not being Conan-Doyle. And, indeed I very much liked this new Holmes mystery.
The set up is Watson, nearing the end of his life, sitting down to write of one last adventure. Watson explains that it was a case that was delicate in some way so it could not be written up or published at the time. And it is a particularly convoluted and twisted tale which starts one place and winds its way through many intriguing byways before drawing to a satisfying conclusion with all threads tied up in a neat Sherlockian many-stranded bow.
One of the best things about the book were the insights into the nature of Holmes and Watson’s bromance. Watson’s voice is rich and true, clear with hindsight, and sentimental, revealing the closeness but complexity of the friendship he shared with the world’s most eccentric detective. It’s a fascinating relationship.
I also want to highly recommend the audio version of the book narrated by Derek Jacobi. This is one of those instances where I think listening to the book may be superior to reading the book because Jacobi IS Watson. He voices Watson just as I’d imagine him to be, bringing him and the story to life.
One thing I cannot judge is how fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s books will feel about the book. To me it seemed like a reverently written tribute to Doyle’s creation but as I mentioned I’ve only read one of the original tales. But with that limited experience I do believe anyone will like it.