I might not have ‘read’ House of Silk as soon as I did if it wasn’t for Derek Jacobi. You see Sir Jacobi has been working his way through recording the Conan Doyle originals of Holmes and I’m really hoping that he gets to finish them (he’s got to be 2/3s done). Anyway, I was looking for a way to get back into the Holmes stories a couple of years ago and had some Audible credit. And after listening to a few samples a love affair was born. Jacobi for me is the voice of Watson and my passion for Holmes renewed.
So when I saw that he was reading The House of Silk I couldn’t resist. Now it could have all gone horribly wrong as I’m very used to Doyle’s style and Jacobi’s reading so any failings by Horowitz to get the ‘voice’ right would have been immediately obvious.
And it’s all to the credit to Horowitz that I made it to the end only thinking that Watson was slightly too knowing but never thinking that he wasn’t Watson or doing the job that he has always done; journaling Holmes’s adventures.
What gives it that sense of too ‘knowing’? It’s the framing that’s chosen. This is an adventure that Watson wrote in old age and one that wasn’t to be released until after he’s gone. He is more reflective and judging of the main players but you also get the sense that Horowitz wants you to know how much he knows Doyle’s creation and how he’s being careful to be true to the original and that he has been thinking about the world and the characters and how he could bring them to life.
And without giving away too much it’s certainly a case that Holmes would get himself involved in. An agitated gentleman turns up unannounced at 221B Baker Street asking for Holmes’s help. The man is being stalked by a scar-faced man. Intrigued by his plight Holmes and Watson’s investigations takes them via Boston (though only in told tales) to top of British society and they have no idea what their investigation is going to uncover.
If you’ve listen to the Holmes/Horowitz special of The Readers you might have heard the interview with Horowitz by Simon and heard Horowitz’s top five Holmes short stories. At the time Simon had read it and I hadn’t finished it, which I now realise put him in a really awkward position. The same position I’m in this review… what to reveal.
The answer is not a lot. It’s a mystery and what this man brings into the life of Holmes and Watson is revealed as you read. There are some great moments. Horowitz has poured all his good ideas and chucked in the kitchen sink to make sure gets as much mileage as he can from his one-off officially sanctioned adventure.
And after getting to the end I really want him to write another but I don’t know how he could manage it without it feeling like it’s a ‘lesser’ adventure.
As always Derek Jacobi does an outstanding job bring life to each of the characters by voicing each on differently. There is much more to add. He’s perfect.
If you’re a fan of Holmes or intrigued by him The House of Silk is definitely something to read as not only do you appreciate how clever a character he is and how clever Horowitz is but also (re)ignite a passion to read all his other adventures (just like I’m doing).