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"House of Silk" proves smooth, engaging read


Hundreds of Sherlock Holmes books and short stories have been written since Sir Arthur Conan Doyle died. But how many have been good stories that remained true to the spirit of the original? Of course that’s a subjective question, but my experience has been that very few rise to the level of a great read.

The wait is over, as there is a solid contender in the Holmes field: best-selling author Anthony Horowitz’s very good mystery, “The House of Silk” (Mulholland Books, 2011). Although it starts rather slowly, readers will likely become totally engrossed by Chapter 3. Admirers of Doyle’s work should enjoy the story.

“The House of Silk,” set in London circa 1890, chronicles two seemingly unrelated mysteries: the strange case of a respected art dealer terrorized by an American criminal, and the cryptic death of a boy who is one of Holmes’ famous “Baker Street Irregulars” – young boys paid by Holmes to provide information about missing people and stolen property around London.

It’s difficult to discuss the book with spoiling it, but suffice to say it has the feel of a genuine Sherlock Holmes story. Horowitz includes authentic touches that highlight the life and times of London in the early 20th century.

The characters, too, resemble the original Holmes, Dr. Watson and Inspector Lestrade. Best of all, the author has crafted original chains of deductions for Holmes, sure to confound Dr. Watson and delight longtime aficionados. The mystery is involving and complex enough to satisfy readers – and the ending is surprising and novel.

A small complaint – one that plagues many Doyle imitators – no one has been able to match the beautiful language of the original stories.

Other recommended Holmes stories not authored by Doyle include the series of books by Laurie R. King, beginning with “The Beekeeper’s Apprentice: Or on the Segregation of the Queen” (Picador, 2007), and “Sherlock Holmes: The Missing Years” (Bloomsbury USA, 2001) by Jamyang Norbu.

Horowitz is well-known for his three series of children’s books for readers 10-14, and fans who enjoy “The House of Silk” might consider one of his series or stand-alone books for their children or grandchildren.

Leslie Ashmore is a longtime Mountain View resident who belongs to two book clubs.

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