(This just an emotional response to my recent completion of the book, not an official literary review.)
This is the first Sherlock Holmes novel in 125 years to have the official approval of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Estate, and rightfully so. Yet, I am not sure exactly how I feel after finishing the book; my emotional state is in limbo. I want to declare it a masterpiece but the House of Silk ‘mystery” is one that leaves me empty and perplexed. I would like to know what was behind Mr. Horowitz’s motives for the bleak picture he painted.
It was, however, engrossing and gritty. The same damp, foggy imagery used by Watson when Doyle was at the helm, permeated the entire narrative. As I began to read, I could almost smell the dank, musty odor that comes the tattered pages a hundred year old book. Several times I had to stop and just feel the newly opened spine, and lightly rap the pristine hardback cover. And every time I did I came to the same conclusion, it WAS indeed, a brand new book; Copyright 2011.
Both Dolye’s Watson and Horowitz’s Waston use London’s streets and landscapes brilliantly. The city characteristics seem to mirror Sherlock’s characteristics; Industrious, Calloused, Cold, Unpredictable, Shrewd, Shrouded with mesmerizing Mystery and Fog, etc. To me Sherlock and London are one in the same. It has been reflected in all of Doyle’s stories and it was reflected here as well.
If Sherlock is the Face and Behavior of London, then Watson it Her true passion and conscience; forever Hopeful and Earnest in thoughts, deeds, and language. Watson would be nothing with out Holmes (merely a physician) but Holmes could still be a great detective and a possess a brilliant mind. Sherlock is the head and hands, Watson is the heart and soul.
The only relief from the unforgiving streets are the refreshing, English country-sides. It is like the glimmer of hope and confidence that beams from Holmes’s keen eyes, as he is carries out a well-conceived plan or unveils a hidden truth. They are a reprieve despair and mindless routine.
Both Watson characters love and loathe Holmes. I think loathe may be too strong of a word, but it will do, for lack of a more precise term. It is both of those attributes that keeps the relationship on its toes and keeps Watson coming back to aid Sherlock. He is absolutely in awe of Sherlock’s ability to unravel the most complex mysteries with the simplest logic; logic that evades the common man. And is in debt and gratitude for the unwavering loyalty that is reciprocated by Holmes.
I am aware that it is not what we would call a healthy relationship. It seems to be mentally and emotionally abusive and very one-sided…and that side is very acerbic and toxic. It is one that is numbingly comfortable for Watson, which makes me wonder about his childhood, there may have been some type of domestic abuse. However, his unwavering faithfulness to Holmes could also be a militant overflow, wherein, he deems Holmes as a brother in arms and their souls are fused to each other. I am inclined to think the last one is probably the right one. Those with whom one endures great peril and trials become connected for life.
Mr. Horowitz did a fantastic job of tricking my literary eye into relaxing (at times) and forgetting that he, not Doyle, was possessing Watson’s mind. There are numerous times that I drifted in to the story with child-like abandonment and took with great pleasure, the scenarios Watson served up. It seemed comfortable and used, like a well-worn, leather recliner that calls to you and invites you to sit and rest. You sit down and before long your eyes are heavy and you have drifted into a deep, peaceful sleep. But it was more like a frequently interrupted R.E.M. drifting, as I was jolted back to consciousness by a slightly “off” phrase or by simply remembering that this wasn’t Doyle. These “off” phrase may have been in my head, but I did re-read the Holmes Canon last year, and feel like Watson’s voice is an old friend. However, I will not say that I am an official Sherlockian; I am more like a life long fan.
I also read, “The Veiled Detective“, by David Stuart Hines, with no hiccup at all. There was no doubt that this book was from a different perspective and he weaved that angle in to the Canonical Narrative. It was great, but I knew that it wasn’t approved by Doyle’s Estate and that it is never going to be considered for the Canon. There is so much pressure on Horowitz because of the approval, but it also means that this maybe be added to the Canon (with an asterisk).
The sheer intricacies that are demonstrated in the twisting narrative of House of Silk are without question Doyle-esque. I did catch myself a few times stopping on a certain passage and asking if Watson or Holmes would have said this or that, or had done this or that, but in the end I would reflect back to the Canon and remember certain stories that fit the dialogue or event. And thus my speculation was satisfied.
I loved the transparency Watson displays in this narrative. To me the story wasn’t so much about the House of Silk as it was the complex emotional attachment he has with Sherlock. I feel myself constantly being drawn to Watson more so than Holmes. I would like to say otherwise but Watson does such a beautiful job of allowing Holmes to enlighten us to the most impossible questions and riddles. The common logic that Watson reguritates is indicative of what you and I would be thinking of, and I think it forces more people to connect with Watson than with Holmes.
We are all Watson; there can only be one Holmes. Even Moriarty is not Holmes, he made a valiant attempt but went his grave a failure.
We, the readers, are at a slight disadvantage with a Watson driven story. We are at his mercy to believe what he tells us is the truth, and we are relying on his sense of morality and interpretation of his emotional state as he digests the facts and tries to help solve the mystery. If we were given Holmes’s perspective the answer would be a bit more obvious, but there would be less of an engaging story and more of a monotonous text book style narrative. Emotional insight would be omitted, as it would have no teaching or judicial value. We would not be able to relate to either Holmes or Watson;
Watson humanizes Holmes so he doesn’t completely alienate himself from the World. If not for Watson’ perspective Holmes reclusion and reticence would devour his sleuthing success.
I kicked myself for trusting Watson’s deductions, as I made the very similar deduction split seconds before his manuscipt does, so therefore it instantly confirmed my erroneous and common logic; in the mouth of 2 or 3 witnesses let every word be established (biblical proverb). He seems so logical, trustworthy, and passionate. I want to trust him. I want him to be right and have him save the day with this gleaned powers of deduction…but he will never be able to be a forward thinker. He is forever a reflector. He is like the moon reflecting the harsh light of the sun in to an easier and soothing light. He will forever experience the uncommon logic of Holmes and reflect the impossible tale to us so we can be humbled in awe.
I played right in to Mr. Horowitz’s trap and was suddenly accosted by the very henchman that attacked Watson. I felt just as helpless and just as much of a failure. How could I have allowed myself to run after him and rush headlong into the fray? Holmes has taught me better and he has taught Watson better, but some of us never learn.
I was not completely hoodwinked by Mr. Horowitz, nor completely out smarted. I caught a scent or two that were unraveled in Holmes’s Big Reveal. They weren’t spot on, but there were close enough that I didn’t feel like I was completely disconnected for Holmes. There is still a chance for my reasoning and deductible powers to grow and be fruitful. Unless, of course, Mr. Horowitz planned it that way. Give them a little taste of the honey so they will come back, but never find the Honeycomb. The proverbial dog chasing his evasive and mocking tail.
Again I am still perplexed and distressed at the main Reveal.
This was more of an emotional response to the book and a bit of critique (hyperbolic accolades.ha.) on some of the literary vehicles used by Mr. Horowitz’s Watson.
Again, it is not my intent to tear the book open and review passages and dialogue at this point. The book is fairly new and not everyone has had a chance to read it. I did not divulge any plots, schemes, or riddles in this review, I will allow Mr. Sherlock Holmes the honors, as always, in the “Big Reveal.”
To the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Estate, I say thank you for approving this book. To Watson, thanks for the delightful and delicious insight in to the greatest mind of the last few Centuries. To Sherlock Holmes, for being uncommonly logical and passionate about Truth and Justice. And finally to Mr. Anthony Horowitz I say, “Well done ol’ boy.”