I’ve decided to remove my review page and just review any books I wish to review in a post, that way I can add tags…learning to use the blog…


I decided to read House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz for the rather selfish reason of seeing how it stacked up to my own novel, Sherlock Holmes and the Whitechapel Vampire. Since Mr. Horowitz is a rather successful author, I was interested in comparing and contrasting our takes on Doyle’s inimitable detective.

Before I get into the specifics, of which I have many, I want to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the book and felt that on measure, it faithfully recreated the flavor of Conan Doyle’s stories for the great majority of the reading. I did, however, find some areas I would take issue with and it is these that this review endeavors to describe.

Of course, the first chapter is taken up with the author attempting to show his familiarity with Holmes and the canon. This can be seen from the opening page where the obligatory astonishing deductive ability of Holmes is demonstrated for Watson, as well as the reader. But really, Watson has been down this road too many times to be truly taken aback, don’t you think? By the end of the first chapter I was anxiously awaiting for Holmes to reach for the Persian slipper on the mantle, and was not disappointed. I did think the author was perhaps trying too hard to show his familiarity.

What I was more troubled by were the instances of inconsistency or words that seemed out of character. For instance, the last paragraph on page eleven begins, “Sure enough…” This sounds out of character for Watson’s chronicle. Also, on page twenty-five, the phrase “wiped out” is used. This seems to me to be too contemporary a term for Victorian England. I doubt it was in Watson’s lexicon.

On page 15, Holmes remarks that the actions of the man in the flat hat made “no sense”. It seems to me that Holmes would have several possible scenarios in which the actions would make perfect sense, or at least remark that their seeming lack of sense was due to a certain lack of “data”. Then on page 16 Holmes contradicts himself, saying in one sentence that the “picture becomes clearer”, and then two sentences later comments that the behavior is “lacking in logic” when this particular behavior is the most obvious, even to the casual observer.

Chapter two is taken up with the back story that gives the impetus for Holmes taking on an investigation. Later, on page thirty-four, once again we see Holmes step out of character saying that were it not for Watson’s chronicling of his adventures he might not have the strength to carry on his investigations, as if it was the adulation of the readers that spurs him on. This is something he might take private joy in, but he’d scarce admit it. It’s always been the odd or curious nature that piques his interest and steels his will, not the crowd.

Another glaring contradiction, this time concerning Watson, occurs on pages fifty-seven and sixty, whereas he first gives an overly admiring description of his sentiment toward Holmes, when a mere three pages later he gives the impression of harboring some annoyance with Holmes, almost to the point of accusing him of cheating in his abilities.

Then there are some factual anomalies. Page fifty-nine puts Mrs. Oldmore’s Private Hotel in Bermondsey and on page sixty-one sets a price of thirty shillings per week for a “mean, dilapidated building”, but in “Dickens’ Dictionary of London, 1888”, “very good” lodging could be had for thirty to forty shillings per week, even though he did mention “the blood and grime of Bermondsey”, which was notable for being a district that housed the leather making industry, which was very bloody indeed. This is a minor point of research barely worth mentioning.

From here Mr. Horowitz appears to hit his pace, with only small glitches, such as Holmes saying “Pshaw!”, page 134. “Nonsense!” I think would have worked better. On page 166, Holmes asks Lestrade, and then Watson nearly the same question that made the questions seem odd and clumsy, “What did you make of it” and “What do you make of it”. Also, I found a typo on page 167 where “span” is used and I believe it should be “swam”. Nothing really detracts from the story here.

The last thing worth mentioning is the introduction of Moriarty purportedly to “aid” Holmes. Not only does this, as well as his assertion he doesn’t “murder children” seem out of character for the evil genius, but his assistance was contrived and ineffectual. The only thing I can conclude was that he wanted to get Moriarty in the story somehow, so he concocted this piece, which I think would have been better left out.

All in all I found the book absorbing with the actual underlying crime being shocking, but not to a degree that once it’d been broken up it necessarily needed to be tucked away for fifty years, per Watson’s assertion. But I suppose that is just a matter of opinion and in the Victorian age, perhaps it would have been. I give the book four and a half pipes out of five. I recommend it to anyone who is a fan of Doyle and his beloved detective, Sherlock Holmes.