It all begins, as it often does in Sherlock Holmes stories, with Holmes and Watson receiving an unexpected visitor at 221 Baker Street. Edmund Carstairs, a London art-dealer, tells a gripping story about stolen artwork, being stalked by a disgruntled American gang member, and mysterious messages. Holmes agrees to take the case on, and ropes in his Irregulars on a fact-finding mission. This, however, leads to the violent torture and death of one of the Irregulars, and eventually Holmes and Watson find themselves in desperate search of the notorious House of Silk.
While I certainloy grew up reading and enjoying Conan Doyle, I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m a die-hard, know-all-the-trivia type of fan. That’s probably a good thing, as I didn’t go in with very specific expectations. Horowitz’s Holmes is a more evolved, warmer, more human character than his predecessor. This Sherlock is somewhat less distanced from the rest of humanity – he seems to enjoy his food, and even feels remorse and guilt. The other, significant difference is the authorial tone towards the setting. Conan Doyle wrote of his own times, and therefore was more of a reporter of the norms, than a commentator; Horowitz, perhaps as a function of being a 21st century author writing about a historical setting, cannot help but become a bit of a social commentator.
To Conan Doyle, the Bakers Street Irregulars were mostly just a bunch of ragged, sharp, street urchins, employed by Holmes to ferret out information. To Horowitz, however, the Irregulars become a reflection of the malaise in Victorian society, where thousands of parentless, abandoned children roamed the streets, fending for themselves and losing their childhood in the process.
At the end of the day, Horowittz has succeeded in writing a great page-turner, complete with criminal masterminds, Chinese opium dens and political intrigues.
Carrying on a much beloved series is often a perilous task and many talented authors have had mixed results in their attempts – Death at Pemberly, Devil May Care – but Horowitz largely succeeds in re-creating the Conan Doyle magic.
Maya always has three books going at the same time - a different book for every mood. She loves exploring new authors, but every now and then she sinks back into the comfort of old favourites like murder mysteries and Regency romances. A corporate butterfly, Maya lives and works in Bangalore, India.
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