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by Anthony Horowitz
Orion, November 2011
294 pages
18.99 GBP
ISBN: 1409133826

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Comfortable in the final years of his life, Doctor John Watson is finally putting on record the most disturbing and dangerous case of the late, great Sherlock Holmes. Of all the relationships in his life, he explains, his friendship with the famous London detective was perhaps the strongest and the one he misses most of all. In order to relive, just for a while, his time spent in Baker Street he is writing the untold stories of The Man in the Flat Cap and The House of Silk, two adventures that are so intertwined they cannot be told separately. He adds a caveat; that the subject of the cases and the secrets they uncovered are so disturbing and vile, and the events involve such wealthy and influential people, that he will not allow the story to be published in his lifetime and will leave instructions for the papers to remain locked away for a hundred years.

With that he takes us back to November 1890 when, with his wife Mary away visiting a sick relative, Watson decides to spend some back in Baker Street, his old lodgings, where consulting detective Sherlock Holmes still receives guests with intriguing mysteries that need solutions. No sooner has Watson has made himself at home again then is the game afoot! They have a visitor by the name of Edmund Carstairs, an art dealer, who believes he is being followed by Keelan O'Donaghue, the sole survivor of an Irish gang he encountered in America, and who may well harbour murderous feelings towards him as he was instrumental in the deaths of every other gang member, including his twin brother, Rourke.

Thus starts this new, previously unpublished, adventure of Sherlock Holmes, an adventure that seamlessly moves between the dank, sordid underbelly of Victorian London, and the just as sordid lives of its upper-class citizens, the corrupt police force and power-hungry politicians. Anthony Horowitz has in every way captured the voice of Doctor Watson; his vocabulary, educated by his chosen career and his experiences at war, his adoring descriptions of his best friend, Holmes, his bravery-after-the-fact recall of their dangerous and near-fatal adventures.

Horowitz definitely has Watson's story-telling flair. His Sherlock Holmes perfectly resurrects Conan Doyle's creation. His Victorian London is just as dark and dirty, his characters are as wonderfully charismatic, proud and down-right evil. This novel is like stepping back in time, but in doing so, Horowitz risked losing a modern-day audience and so his story, while fitting snugly into the time and place in which Holmes and Watson lived, is definitely one for today's more well-informed audience, less naive audience. While the events depicted in the novel would have had devastating consequences had they come to light at that time, now they are unlikely to surprise the more jaded among us, even though they would shock us now as they would have done readers back in Conan Doyle's day.

This is a brilliant novel, made all the more welcome by the fact that Horowitz has stepped into the shoes of an acclaimed and beloved author and has taken time and effort to ensure this novel can stand proud next to the works of Conan Doyle. This should ensure that the name Sherlock Holmes enters the hearts of a whole new generation of readers, while remaining firmly grounded in the muddy waters, stinking alleys and questionable clubs of magical Victorian London.

Madeleine Marsh is an aspiring writer who lives in South West England. She helps run sci-fi conventions and loves modern cinema.

Reviewed by Madeleine Marsh, September 2011

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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