Anthony Horowitz’ previous Sherlock Holmes novel, The House of Silk, was a bona fide classic; an absolute corker of a story. I had never read any of the original Sherlock Holmes stories but was prompted to after reading The House of Silk. Dare I say that I didn’t find any of Arthur Conan-Doyle’s originals as gripping or as satisfying as Horowitz’ own interpretation.
Needles to say then that I was always going to read any follow up by Anthony Horowitz, but is it as good?
The story starts where Holmes and Moriarty meet their ends, at the Reichenbach Falls. Seemingly, we have a Holmes tale without Sherlock or Moriarty . Sherlock is missing. presumed dead, and Moriarty is lying dead on a slab at the mortuary. Instead we have Frederick Chase, senior investigator for Pinkerton’s detective agency and Athelney Jones of Scotland Yard. This is the same Athelney Jones who appeared in The Sign of the Four and is now an avowed disciple of Sherlock and his methods.
I do not read many detective or mystery novels and I freely admit that I’m rubbish at trying to guess ‘who did it’ or the twist in the tale. I did think that Detective Inspector Jones could be Sherlock himself. Certainly his methods and powers of deduction seem remarkably similar. Indeed his language seemed to ape that of Holmes, he even says ‘the game is very much afoot.’ This is just one of the areas in which I was wrongfooted by the novel.
Chase is ‘chasing’ American master criminal Clarence Devereux, but is interested in Moriarty as he believes that he may have clues to Devereux’s whereabouts on his person. A cryptic message found on Moriarty’s body puts Chase and Jones on the trail of Devereux.
There is quite a big ‘infodump’ right at the start of the book. I felt that this might not be necessary and that readers of a Conan-Doyle inspired novel might be trusted to work some things out themself.
The story is very readable and a page-turner but it does sometimes read as Holmes by numbers, a checklist of all the major features you would expect. I felt that parts of the story were overstretched to increase the tension. At one point Jones has deduced that a man may be religious. Chase is keen to know how but Jones promises to tell him that afternoon. Why? It’s like the announcement of the results in Britain’s Got Talent where they deliberately wait 20 seconds before speaking.
There is a massive twist in the tale near the end, which completely blindsided me. After reading the book with enjoyment but some reservations up to this point it did make we wonder whether I had completely underestimated the story. On reflection, I think the story reads as though the climax was planned with great skill and ingenuity but the unfolding of the plot was less important.
This is a good book, but after the stunning display that was The House of Silk, I was expecting something as impressive. This felt a bit rushed.