Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Classic Holmes

There are some things that I enjoy more thoroughly when they are in their natural state. I prefer a single malt scotch with a splash of spring water. If I have a Coke, I will seek out the Mexican brand that still uses cane sugar instead the high fructose corn crap. And when it comes to Sherlock Holmes, give me the one that Arthur Conan Doyle created.

Don’t misunderstand, I enjoy the latter year Holmes chronicled by Laurie King. Additionally, I have to admit to even enjoying the BBC’s complete modern re-imagining of Sherlock with the lead played by Benedict Cumberbatch (great Dickensian name that). By no means am I a Canon purist who puts every new incarnation of the great Baker Street detective through a literary inquisition where any deviation from Doyle’s original “Sacred 60” is hissed at with derision.

Still, nothing can transport me to the fog slicked cobblestone alleys of Victorian London quite like the original Holmes stories. I don’t mean it has to be Doyle’s actual words. However, it does have to be his voice. The master’s voice is unmistakable and rarely imitated successfully. Then, along comes Anthony Horowitz with The House of Silk.

Horowitz knows British period mysteries. You may have seen his pen at work if you have ever watched the WWII themed PBS Mystery Series, Foyle’s War. Obviously, he knows Britain’s Victorian period quite well too since the Arthur Conan Doyle Estate has officially approved of his new addition to the Holmes collection.

Most importantly, Horowitz knows Sherlock Holmes. He knows him so well that he trusts the voice of Doyle to continue to tell the story of 221b Baker Street’s most famous resident.

After a brief introduction where an aging Dr. Watson takes up his pen again after Holmes has passed beyond these mortal mists, we are taken back to the glorious heyday of the Sherlock Holmes and John Watson adventures. Where has this lost tale been? Watson tells us that the tale is so monstrous and dangerous that he will leave it safely with his solicitors with the express instruction that it cannot be printed until 100 years after his death.

It is just as we remembered it all. Close your eyes and you can smell the shag tobacco of Holmes’ church warden pipe as he sorts through clues to a series of murders that all have the same clue- a white silk ribbon. All of your favorite characters are here. Sherlock’s corpulent brother Mycroft, the rat-faced Inspector Lestrade, Wiggins and the Baker Street Irregulars, even Moriarty, they are all here again in glorious gas lamp lit color.

Horowitz truly pulls off the wonderful illusion that Arthur Conan Doyle has left us one last tale. One could easily imagine Anthony using one of Doyle’s psychic mediums to receive inspiration from beyond the veil.

In short, buy this book. Turn off the television for an evening. Turn out all of the house lights, save one. Brew yourself a pot of tea (don’t forget the cozy). Then sit back and lose yourself to the tale. For, the game is afoot.

James Jensen is a bookseller at Warwick's

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