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Customer Review

187 of 199 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The authentic Watsonian voice..., 4 Nov. 2011
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This review is from: The House of Silk: The Bestselling Sherlock Holmes Novel (Kindle Edition)
Of all the Holmes pastiches I have read (and there have been many), Horowitz has, I believe, achieved the most authentic Watsonian voice. For most of the time, it is possible to believe the book was written by Conan Doyle, the master storyteller, himself. All the regular characters are there - Inspector Lestrade, Mrs Hudson, brother Mycroft - and as a Holmes fanatic, I wasn't conscious of any of those jarring inconsistencies that mar many a Holmes tribute. The plot is complex and well written, and we see Holmes both as the calculating thinker and as the man of action. The Holmes/Watson relationship is very faithfully portrayed.

However, I felt that sometimes Horowitz allowed the tone to stray quite far from the originals. For example, Watson's concern for the contrast of rich and poor, his reflections on the street urchins, smacked more of Dickens than Conan Doyle. Suddenly the Baker Street Irregulars are no longer the cheeky, street-smart gang of old; now they are to be pitied for their poverty and the harshness of their lives. All true, of course, but not in keeping with the originals. I also felt that the main strand of the plot was well outside the bounds that Conan Doyle would have set and as a result in the latter stages it got more difficult to forget that this was not the genuine article.

In the Kindle version, there is included a very interesting essay by Horowitz where he describes how he came to write the book and lays out the ten rules he set himself, before beginning to write, to try to ensure an authentic flavour. He admits that he broke one or two of the rules along the way and I feel that was a pity - had he managed to stay within them I believe the end result would have been as close to perfect as any homage could be.

Notwithstanding these criticisms, which I am sure would only bother other Holmes pedants like myself, I think this is a very good read, well written, well plotted and full of interest. The best faux-Holmes I have read, I would recommend this to existing fans and newcomers alike.
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Showing 1-10 of 20 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 29 Nov 2011 16:19:20 GMT
R. Byers says:
I suppose as you stated yourself a self confesses Holmes Pedant I shouldn't then criticise, however the changes you allude to perhaps will improve and add to the work as a whole. I have just put in the order and will no doubt find out soon.
However if more substance is added and the plot more complex I would be happy. Yes I enjoyed the books but if honest Im sure we would all accpet that on most occasions they are quick reads, and easy to work out whodunnit ! Sherlock the brain Holmes sometimes took a little time working it out.

In reply to an earlier post on 29 Nov 2011 19:41:26 GMT
Last edited by the author on 29 Nov 2011 21:13:00 GMT
FictionFan says:
Thanks for commenting, RB. Yes, as I said, my small criticisms don't mean this isn't an excellent read - it is! I love the originals despite their flaws and so always hope pastiches will stick closely to the spirit of them. But one of the things I mainly love is Holmes & Watson's interactions - and I think Horowitz gets this just right. I hope you enjoy it:-)

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Dec 2011 13:11:04 GMT
Oscar says:
Why didn't Horowitz just write his own detective novel instead of pretending it is a Conan Coyle story.
Copying authors is never a success, the reader cannot ever escape the knowledge that it is not original.

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Dec 2011 15:32:58 GMT
FictionFan says:
I tend to agree. But I still can't resist reading Holmes pastiches, even though they sometimes annoy me;-)

Thanks for commenting.

Posted on 8 Dec 2011 18:28:31 GMT
[Deleted by the author on 8 Dec 2011 18:38:08 GMT]

Posted on 21 Dec 2011 14:29:28 GMT
Last edited by the author on 21 Dec 2011 14:33:10 GMT
DaveL says:
How does this author, in his first and obviously only intended pastiche on Sherlock Holmes, have the arrogance to kill him off irrelevantly in the preface? Even Sir A. C. D. couldn't manage that. Horowitz writes that Dr. Watson was leaving instructions for the package not to be opened for 100 years, but Holmes and Watson were both alive and well in 1914 immediately prior to World War I as is clear from "His Last Bow." Moreover, far from needing to be looked after by nurses, Watson was driving a car! So why is it being published 3 years too early? Perhaps Watson's package was blown open in the 1940's when, according to a rigorous compiler of Holmes chronology, the vaults of Cox and Co. in Charing Cross would have been razed by the Luftwaffe? With this much apathy before the story even starts, I agree with Oscar that Horowitz should have written his own detective novel, but I suppose he wanted to cash in on the famous name.

In reply to an earlier post on 21 Dec 2011 20:14:28 GMT
FictionFan says:
Again I tend to agree with you, DaveL, and was horrified with the whole picture of Watson in a home. But once the story gets underway, Horowitz redeems himself to a great degree. I've never read a perfect Holmes pastiche, but this is as close as I've seen. But the point you raise, plus a little concern about the plot straying pretty far across a line I felt Conan Doyle would not have crossed, is the reason for 4 stars rather than 5. I believe though that it was the Doyle estate that approached Horowitz and asked him to write the 'official' pastiche, so maybe in this case he wasn't cashing in quite as much as others have.

Thanks for commenting:-)

Posted on 1 Jan 2012 14:10:42 GMT
AC/EZ says:
I completely agree with your review. I was a fan of both the original stories and Horowitz before this and I think it's a very good effort. However I had the same issue with the plot (although I suppose it creates a believable explanation as to why the manuscript had to be locked away for 100 years) and the attempts to humanise Holmes. Too often if felt that Horowitz was attempting to show that Watson and Holmes had 'hearts', which for me was the only jarring departure from Conan Doyle's style.

In reply to an earlier post on 1 Jan 2012 15:15:36 GMT
FictionFan says:
Thanks for commenting AC/EZ. I agree about the showing 'heart' - I wonder if he thought a modern day audience would expect it? Happy New Year!

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Jan 2012 10:36:23 GMT
I have to agree with the seemingly pointless 'death' of Holmes as mentioned in the opening pages - at reading this I assumed it would be a 'trick revelation' (Watson mentions in the text that the 1890 setting was 'twenty five years ago', so it could have meant, for instance, that had this been written in 1915, Holmes had faked his death to embark on another His Last Bow-style secret mission during WW1); but in the end it proved to be no such thing and had no bearing on the plot at all.

We are talking about fictional characters, so it does seem churlish to have a pop at this kind of thing; but it does seem odd to me that the Conan Doyle estate would be OK with Horowitz 'killing off' Holmes in such a flat and pointless way. Not to mention that two ACD stories written by Holmes himself (Blanched Soldier and Lion's Mane) were only published in the mid-1920s, so from a point of view of chronology with the originals, Horowitz can actually be judged as having made a screaming howler.

As little patience as I have with the WS Baring-Gould chronology of Holmes etc, I've always bought into the idea that Watson's 'death' around about 1929 made sense, given that ACD died so shortly afterwards, whilst Holmes 'death' will always be a mystery. Given that Horowitz is clearly a Holmes fanatic (with his spot-on mentions of the likes of The Red-Headed League, The Resident Patient, the circumstances of Watson's marriage and his wife's death etc etc), his chucking away the news of Holmes' death in such an arbitrary and needless way was a real downer.

However, overall, this isn't a bad Holmes pastiche, even if, contrary to many of the reviews here, it never really feels like its ACD's writing. To those who enjoyed it, I would suggest getting hold of Lyndsay Faye's very similar-sounding Dust and Shadow (2009), in which Holmes tackles the Jack the Ripper mystery.
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