Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Books Like Whoa: The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz (2012 Book Challenges)

A mysterious interlude....

The House of Silk
by Anthony Horowitz

Procured from a certain ginormous online audiobook retailer

Procured in February 22. 2012

Finished on March 10, 2012

Challenge?: For the "What's in a Name?" challenge

Format: Audiobook, admirably narrated by a Mr. Derek Jacobi, of PBS Sherlock Holmes' fame

Why I gave it a try: I first heard of this book from the crew at The Readers, who both loved it, and hearing them describe it made me think it would be right up my alley. I do love me some Sherlock Holmes fun

Summary: Good old Watson is actually old. He's in the home, surrounded by other elderly people and nurses, and he can't help but think back to the days when he was a crime fighter of daring-do alongside that great detective mind, Sherlock Holmes. There's one case that was so scandalous, so secretive, that he has never committed it to the case book before. But now that all the people involved are dead except for him, he figures he should go ahead and write it all down so that it's not forgotten. The mystery is mysterious, so I don't want to go into the details all that much. Basically, there are 2 interwoven narratives (kind of 2 novellas, really) that all wind around to the same place. We start with an art dealer who's being stalked by a possible deranged Irish-American killer and we're off to the races..

Thoughts: First, let's give props where props are due - Horowitz does a damn fine job channeling Doyle. The tone, language, and characters are dead on and I am truly impressed at how well Horowitz steps into Doyle's shoes. We did have some pacing issue - in the middle, things are dragging a bit and they seem to consist a lot of Watson fretting. That was another unusual element of the story - for plotting reasons, Sherlock disappears for a good hunk of the novel. I'm not sure if that is Horowitz's solution for being able to extend the plot out longer than the usual short stories (hard to make things go too long when you have a mystery solving machine hanging around) or if he was shy about directly channeling Sherlock for too much of the book, but either way, it makes Watson a much more central figure than normal stories.

As for the slights of hand that Doyle is known for, some are more successful that others. Some of them, I was like, really? That's a "mystery?" But when he hits it, he hits it hard, and there are 2 beautifully Sherlockian moments - one when he sizes up where Watson has been, and one in an escape montage.

The biggest questions the book raised for me are spoiler-y, so I've included my thoughts on that at the very end. Read ahead at your own risk...

You back? Okay, good. So, as you can see, I don't quite know what to make of the book as a whole. I really enjoyed it, for the most part, but I am torn about whether or not I "liked" it. Does that make sense? I guess I mean that I was engaged in the reading experience, I respected what he was doing at a sentence level, I thought that the overall project was well executed. That being said, the way things resolve makes me feel very conflicted. However, just because I don't "like" something (i.e. Mondays or wars) doesn't mean that I can't enjoy the work as a whole, so I think it's safe to say that I did enjoy this book, I did think it was well done, and I would recommend it.

That being said, I want more people to read this book because I want to be able to talk to them about it! I think this would probably make for a pretty good book club read. So do it - read it and let me know what you think. Please?


5 - It's really good; well written and pleasurable 

How do you feel about modern writers channeling or sequeling works in the canon? Do you think that you have "like" all of a book in order to ultimately enjoy it?

Barnes & Noble







We spend the whole book wondering what the heck the eponymous House of Silk is. You get a vague impression that it might be some kind of drug ring or maybe a murder club or something. As things go on, you realize it has something to do with kids, so I was thinking, "Oh, they must have these street urchins as slaves! They are holding them in this life of crime and they can't get out!"

Well, I was right that they are slaves and can't get out, but not what they are being held for. Basically, you find out that the House of Silk is a brothel for pedophiles, and these street urchins are sex slaves for pervy, uber-wealthy men. So that's pretty shocking by itself, but the way the place is described and the different rooms that are in there... it just made me sick. So sad, so disturbing, and, alas, so real. There really are places like this in the world, where they don't have to bother hiding things half as well as the characters in this book do. And then he brings it full circle into the story that got the whole book started.

I will grant Horowitz a tip of the hat, because once you find out what the big secret is, you can go along with all his "oh, this case was too crazy pants to talk about at the time" spiel that runs throughout the narrative. However, I was just not expecting it to go so dark... I'm not sure whether or not I like it. Part of me respects that Horowitz is trying to bring his own point of view to the world. The other thinks that Conan Doyle never went as dark as this book does, and it's a little jarring and out of place for what the audience is expecting.

Back to your regularly scheduled programming...



  1. The novel is really two intertwined mysteries. This, presumably, is because Doyle's Holmes novels are (by modern standards) unconscionably short. By using this device, Horowitz respects the originals while writing a book that modern readers will buy. He carries it off pretty well, including the standard Holmesian device in which the client introduces the tale with a long and colorful backstory.

    1. I absolutely agree - there's a reason that the original "novels" were really more novella length. I heard Horowtiz talk about that decision on the Readers' podcast (episode 7)... he also talks about why he wouldn't be doing any follow ups. Interesting stuff and well worth a listen