Customer Review

92 of 101 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great expectations, 22 Nov 2011
This review is from: The House of Silk: The New Sherlock Holmes Novel (Sherlock Holmes Novel 1) (Hardcover)
The marketing spiel for this book claims that it is 'the first new Sherlock Holmes novel to be published with the endorsement of the Conan Doyle estate'. I'd have thought that that honour would have gone to the collection published by Adrian Conan Doyle in the 1950s, but that's by the by. The novel has garnered a truly impressive list of five star reviews, but though I enjoyed it, I feel unable to wholeheartedly second their appreciation.

For one thing, much has been made of the authenticity, the fidelity of this book to the original canon. I should say that it deviates quite drastically in two distinct ways, one consciously, and the other less so. The first thing that grates is the twenty-first century sensibility; this is both a novel with a social conscience and a very contemporary subject matter. The grisly minutiae of the modern crime novel sits uneasily in a Holmes story, as do his new-found progressive sensibilities. Each generation remakes Holmes anew, and I have no problem with that -- in fact I enjoy it. But I do think that if you make great play of inheriting the mantle of Conan Doyle, you must play by his rules, and not your own.

My second point is less overt: I disagree with most critics about the sensitivity with which this Holmes has been drawn. One of the great pleasures for me in the original stories was the capriciousness of Holmes' character. It's one of the most delicious ironies in literature that the supposed 'thinking machine' is anything but: he's a petulant, vainglorious monomaniac, with little time for anyone or anything save himself.

This is the side to Holmes that I found sorely missing in this book. The showy deductions were there, the scenery was all in place, but where was the arrogance? Where was the selfishness that Jeremy Brett drew out so well in the late TV series? The Holmes in this story seems a quiet, efficient and remarkably well balanced man, entirely unsuited for his chosen profession. When he does offer us asides, they are inevitably so clumsy and obvious that they would have been better left out altogether.

Anybody reading this review will by now have the distinct impression that I detest this book. Far from it. It is big on atmosphere and rattles along at a good pace. It is what you might call a good 'fireside book', and I think I should probably have been less hard on it were it just one of the many apocryphal Holmes stories. But as I said before, the 'official' imprimatur, and the many laurels it has gathered make it subject to a far more rigorous examination.
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Tracked by 3 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 11 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 28 Dec 2011 11:48:45 GMT
CHALO says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Jan 2012 10:48:02 GMT
What? Why not? Adrian Conan Doyle was Sir Athur's son - so P. Pensom's assertion is perfectly understandable.

Care to expand on your 'Erm hardly', you berk?

Posted on 7 May 2012 21:26:32 BDT
G. Dagnall says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on 8 May 2012 10:04:51 BDT
P. Pensom says:
I should say that the publisher's blurb is the best place for a synopsis of the plot, and that you come to reviews for an independent opinion. If you think my opinion is twaddle that's up to you, though apparently 47 out of 51 people disagree with you. Why not take a quick scan of the blurb, read the book and then treat everybody to your own review? I for one would be keen to read it.

In reply to an earlier post on 8 May 2012 16:00:58 BDT
P. Pensom says:
Actually, I've just checked up on your past reviews. You have one on Amazon. I particularly like the way you describe what this book is about, Mr Dagnall:

"It states on the cover of the book " The best thriller i've read in a long time " Tess Gerritsen. I would suggest Miss Gerritsen, you should get out to your local library more , It starts off reasonable enough with a good storyline and continues quite well until three quarters of the way through then it starts to become unrealistic and unbelievable and goes downhill fast to reach a crazy ending. give this one a miss."

Is that a review, or directions to the nearest pub? The phrase hoisted by your own petard comes to mind.

In reply to an earlier post on 8 May 2012 18:03:24 BDT
G. Dagnall says:
Mr Pensom,
I stand by my comments and thank you for yours

G Dagnall

In reply to an earlier post on 18 May 2012 12:34:42 BDT
Er, no. I can read a synopsis in Amazon's introduction. When people rehash the plot in their reviews I am at best bored and at worst irritated. I read a review for the reviewer's observations and impressions, which is exactly what this review provides.

I won't know whether I agree with it until I've read the book but it appears to me an intelligent and interesting post.

Posted on 26 Aug 2013 10:54:21 BDT
kindler says:
I respect your opinion (and do consider this exactly what a review should be/contain, unlike other commenters), but though I have not yet read the book, I think I must disagree with you. I personally think that any work of entertainment or art has to move with the times to remain compelling, to remain relevant and interesting, especially to new generations. The classics are of course not worth any less for being old and I am a great fan of the original Conan Doyles. But you cannot expect to succeed in writing a new version or a sequel or even an authorised spin-off and retain the original moral and societal viewpoints. A lot of it is simply unacceptable today, much of it outdated, some of it offensive. It's fine to overlook and make allowances for that when you read the original works, but in my opinion it would be a grave error to try and recreate those things as they were in the original books here. It's not unlike the new James Bond films - you need to try and retain the essence whilst appreciating that we live in an entirely different time, and tone down/remove some of the most outdated and offensive elements.
Perhaps the characterisation is off even taking that into account though - I have yet to read the book, as I say. But I wanted to chuck my 2p into the debate in the defense of modernisation.

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Aug 2013 16:12:14 BDT
P. Pensom says:
A very fair point Kindler. I suppose it all comes down to what you want from your Holmes, and the James Bond analogy is very apt.

I think I'm inclined to say update him, or else don't update him. The excellent TV series running at the moment chooses the former, as did the Rathbone films of the 40's, where he fought the Nazis. I think my problem with this book was that it rather dithered in between; it wanted to be high Victoriana, but its heart wasn't in it. And reading the dialogue of this Holmes made me feel like one of the people in 'Invasion of the Bodysnatchers': "he looks like Holmes, and he sounds like Holmes, but Dr Watson, he just isn't Holmes!"

Posted on 18 Sep 2013 18:26:15 BDT
Last edited by the author on 18 Sep 2013 18:27:31 BDT
A very fair and well-considered review. This book is acclaimed as much because the author is a well-known name as for its content - although there are good things in it, of course.
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P. Pensom

Location: London

Top Reviewer Ranking: 289,270