Monday 23 September 2013

The House of Silk

I've recently started using Goodreads again, after a gap of 5... yes 5... years. Why I went away from it for so long I'm not sure but I saw that a couple of Facebook friends were now using it so I returned. It's quite a good place to log the books you read and to pick up recommendations, also to follow authors as quite a few are on there. I've picked up several Blogger people who I know here but if you're on there and want to friend me, feel free to leave a comment to this post.

Ok, well I've just finished my fifth book for Carl's R.I.P. VIII challenge and it's The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz. It's a 'new' Sherlock Holmes story.

Dr. Watson is an elderly man, living alone and reminiscing about his adventures with Sherlock Holmes. Holmes died a year ago and Watson is thinking about a crime they solved that he was never able to write about, as it was too sensitive and involved too many important people in the higher echelons of public life. He decides, at last, to write it all down as it's many years since it all happened and the people involved are now dead.

It was 1890 and an art dealer, by the name of Carstairs, came to see Holmes. It seems he dealt with the higher end of the art market and was used to exporting to the USA. Some Constable paintings were destroyed in a gang raid on a train near Boston and Carstairs was instrumental in the death of one of the culprits. He was a twin and Carstairs believed that the other twin had come to London to get revenge.

Holmes used The Baker Street Irregulars to find out where this man was staying, but one of the boys who was left to watch went missing. The search for the boy led them to a school for destitute boys and then on to an inn in the worst part of Victorian London. The boy turned up murdered on the banks of The Thames and Holmes felt partly responsible. Holmes' brother, Mycroft, made a few inquiries and and what he discoverd alarmed him and made him warn Holmes not to get involved on any account. Holmes, of course, ignored him and thus embarks on one of the most dangerous adventures of his whole career.

I nabbed this book in a supermarket, last year. This is something I very rarely ever do, to be honest. I suppose I'm of the opinion that supermarkets make enough profit without me buying books from them too. But I'd been wanting this one, saw it there, cheap, so I grabbed it. And I'm really glad I did.

Anthony Horowitz is a hugely popular author these days. I know he writes the Alex Rider books for young adults which members of my family read and love, though I haven't tried them yet. He's also the creator and writer of the TV series, Foyle's War, which is a huge favourite of mine. From that I concluded that he had to be a good writer... and I was not wrong. I was very impressed with how authentic the writing felt. Holmes and Watson were spot on, likewise other main characters such as Lestrade and Mrs. Hudson. To me it felt as though it had been written by Arthur Conan Doyle himself, though I suspect Holmes purists might disagree. I'm not one of those, I am, in fact, quite easily pleased, so to me this was a page-turning read and I gobbled it up in a day or so.

I liked the way the author made many references to other Holmes adventures, one character even turned up in this story, which I thought was fun. London itself was a huge presence and I thought the depiction of the city in Victorian times felt very accurate. Many people have a fascination with Victorian London and I'm one of them, so it has to be said that most books set there (not all) can't really lose with me. (One of the best modern books of that ilk, in my opinion, is Fingersmith by Sarah Waters.)

There is a bit of sadness to the story (aside from the main plot I mean). And that's the fact that Dr. Watson is now very elderly, all alone, and missing the friendship of Sherlock Holmes very much. It comes to us all as we age and most of our life is behind rather than in front. But somehow this all felt particularly poignant, I suppose because Watson had led quite the extraordinary life being involved in the doings of the amazing Sherlock Holmes. You cannot help but feel for him.

All in all I enjoyed this immensely and am now in the mood for more in the same vein. On my library pile I have Mayhem by Sarah Pinborough, set during the reign of Jack the Ripper but not about him apparently, about another serial killer, and this book is a mix of crime, supernatural and historical. Sounds perfect for R.I.P VIII.



DesLily said...

ok ..
another book on ye ol' wish list.

might be hard to read when, as you say, Watson is old and "the best part of his life" had passed away. I know the feeling and it's much harder being the one with the memories and being alone.

but I will put it on the wish list. Obviously I need more books.


Peggy Ann said...

Nice review Cath! I think I might like this one. Will see if the library has it!

Susan said...

I have this book! I am so happy! lol I just picked it up second hand, in August. Your review is lovely, Cath, and I am really curious to read it now. I know you enjoy Foyle's War, and didn't know he was the writer for that show, which I have managed to watch a few episodes of. Enough to know that one day I want to sit down and watch them all.

That Mayhem book sounds so good! I don't think it's over here yet, so I'm disappointed. Jan 2014 - I just checked. It will have to be a welcome to the new year gift, then! lol

Nan said...

My goodness AH is a busy man. So prolific.
I recently rejoined Goodreads, and I do enjoy being able to click 'want to read' when I hear about a new book. I'd love to be your friend. I can't believe you have time for your blog, Goodreads, and Facebook. Wonder woman!:<)

Cath said...

Pat: I really think you would like this. As usual I'm regretting that we don't live in the same street because I could lend you mine which is a hardback and nicely readable.

Peggy: It's quite a well known book so hopefully your library should have it.

Susan: Now why am I not surprised that you already have this. LOL Yes, AH is the creator and main writer of Foyle's War. You should try to watch them all as they are wonderful. As with Pat I wish you lived near as I have the first 5 or 6 seasons and would happily lend them to you.

Mayhem looks pretty interesting. Will probably get to that early October.

Nan: AH must never ever have a spare moment!

Well, Goodreads and FB don't take up much time really. I searched for you on Goodreads under your name and it came up with someone of your name in Copake, NY. As you're in NH I don't think that can be you. Are you on it under a different name? I'm there under Cath Russell if you want to do a search for me.

Margaret @ BooksPlease said...

I've read this one - and really enjoyed it too.

I've just sent you a Friend Request on Goodreads - nice to see you on there too.

Cath said...

Margaret: I was pleased the book turned out to be as good as it was.

I haven't received a friend request from you via Goodreads but I have found you on there and sent you a friend request too. One way or another we should eventually manage to connect. I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion this is not an easy thing with Goodreads...

Jo said...

I'm on goodreads, will look for you.

Cath said...

Jo: I found you and have sent you a friend request.

Lynn said...

A good book (commented already on your last post about this so won't repeat it here).
However I've just read two Pinborough novels (fairy tales retold - which were brilliant and am going to read Mayhem next!
Lynn :D

Lynn said...

A good book (commented already on your last post about this so won't repeat it here).
However I've just read two Pinborough novels (fairy tales retold - which were brilliant and am going to read Mayhem next!
Lynn :D

Cath said...

Lynn: Oddly enough I too have just started Mayhem. How strange is that...