Is Anthony Horowitz the New Conan Doyle?

Updated on December 11, 2019
Beth Eaglescliffe profile image

I teach creative writing to adults and love helping my students improve their writing skills.

Cover illustration for hardback edition.
Cover illustration for hardback edition. | Source

The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz

This book is a new Sherlock Holmes novel written in homage to the original stories. The House of Silk is a fast-paced mystery narrated by Dr Watson, Holmes’ faithful sidekick. Anthony Horowitz was chosen to write this book as he had already written a string of successful novels and screenplays under his own name. His credits include many episodes of TV series Midsommer Murders, and Poirot. He is also the author of the Alex Rider series of young adult books.

He was approached by the family of Conan Doyle and asked to write a new mystery and recreate the well-loved characters of the original Sherlock Holmes stories. Trying to imitate the style of another successful novelist is not easy, but on balance, Horrowitz has captured the spirit of the earlier tales.

Book Trailer For The House of Silk

November 1890, London, England

This story is told by Dr. Watson as he nears the end of his life. He reminisces about the detecting prowess of his idol, Sherlock Holmes. He recalls a dreadful winter in 1890 when he unexpectedly found himself back at 221b Baker Street, London. Watson’s wife had been called away suddenly to care for an ailing relative, and this left him free to assist his good friend Holmes once more.

The events of this dark and fast-moving tale are set in the cold, dark, poverty-ridden streets of Victorian London. Horowitz gives greater detail of the impoverished lives of street children than Conan Doyle did. This leaves less to the imagination, but does mean you are left in no doubt about the violent and desperate nature of life on the streets if you were poor in the 19th century. The descriptions and fate of homeless, orphaned children in this book reminded me of scenes from Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens.

Halfpenny dinners for poor children in Victorian London.
Halfpenny dinners for poor children in Victorian London. | Source

Format and Characters Same as Original

Author Anthony Horowitz was asked to mimic the style of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the original creator of the quirky detective. He loved the original Sherlock Holmes stories and tried to keep the original format while bringing the pacing of the story up to date so that it could be enjoyed by a new audience. Anthony Horowitz gets this spot on.

The story follows the same structure as readers of Sherlock Holmes have come to expect. A distraught person calls on the detective to ask for help with a seemingly inexplicable murder. The answer to the mystery is gradually revealed through Watson appearing bemused and Holmes explaining everything to him in simple terms. Sherlock patiently demonstrates to his friend how all his deductions are made through acute observation.

They are a friendship of opposites. Where Holmes is distant and abrupt, Watson displays warmth and concern. The House of Silk was a big hit with US Holmes fans and it entered The New York Times Bestseller List. It captured the hearts of the British public via The Richard and Judy Book Club. Mr. Horrowitz discusses his novel with Richard and Judy in the video below.

Anthony Horowitz Talks to Richard and Judy

Familiar Cast and Characterization

The book is easy to like as it is filled with familiar characters. Dr Watson is once again the narrator and his ex-military medical training give him the stiff upper lip needed to survive the abrupt horrors of this story. What initially appears to be a simple murder investigation turns out to be a tale inter-woven with the breaking of sexual taboos and child exploitation.

The gentle Mrs. Mary Watson, wife of John, provides the only example of romance found in any of Conan Doyle’s stories. She is a minor character in the books and this time she is conveniently removed from the narrative by having to urgently depart to look after a sick relative.

The indomitable Mrs. Hudson, Sherlock Holmes’ landlady and housekeeper appears briefly in the story. She keeps the men in order and grumbles about the involvement of the respectable Mr. Holmes with the Baker Street Irregulars. These (as fans of the original yarns will know) are a group of ragged beggar children that act as Holmes’ eyes and ears in the rougher parts of the city.

And finally, Inspector LeStrade the longsuffering police detective, and Mycroft, Holmes’ older brother play important roles in this new tale. I won’t say too much here in order not to spoil the surprise ending for you.

What is The House of Silk?

The name The House of Silk is a clue to solving the murders. Dr. Watson follows several red herrings along the way in his usual blundering manner. Holmes remains aloof, but eventually reveals all having deduced the meaning of the clue early on. He explains that he kept this knowledge from his friend in order to catch the culprits red-handed. Through the use of several disguises and clever sleight-of-hand Sherlock Holmes triumphs once more. By the end of the story all the culprits receive their just desserts.

Anthony Horowitz says the plot is based on a real scandal that took place in 1891. He has kept the tale historically accurate but has fictionalized the locations, events, and characters.

Sherlock Holmes portrayed on Baskerville Hall Hotel sign in Clyro, Wales
Sherlock Holmes portrayed on Baskerville Hall Hotel sign in Clyro, Wales | Source

Book Club Discussion Questions

The House of Silk is a great choice for Book Clubs. Although the story is set in the 1890s, many of the unsavory and illegal events of the story still happen today.

  1. Did you enjoy the book? What was the most memorable event in it for you?
  2. Had you read any Sherlock Holmes stories before reading this? If not, are you now encouraged to read some of them? If you had, was this a good recreation of Conan Doyle’s style?
  3. Does the story have relevance to today?
  4. Which author are you most likely to read next; another one by Anthony Horowitz or one by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle?

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Submit a Comment
  • John Dove profile image

    John Dove 

    9 days ago

    Hi Beth--

    I love Arthur Conan Doyle and his Sherlockian stories! It was a surprise to me when I learned in your Hub here that Horowitz was tasked by the Doyle family to write a Sherlock Holmes story in the style of Doyle. I plan to learn more about this. Thanks for the info!


  • Jodah profile image

    John Hansen 

    7 weeks ago from Queensland Australia

    That should have been ‘the’ not ‘three’ lol

  • Eurofile profile image

    Liz Westwood 

    7 weeks ago from UK

    Thanks for bringing this to my attention. My husband likes the originals. I will look out for this book.

  • Beth Eaglescliffe profile imageAUTHOR

    Beth Eaglescliffe 

    7 weeks ago from UK

    Conan Doyle was a prolific writer. He wrote a total of four full length Sherlock Holmes novels, as well as 56 short stories with the same characters. Lots for you yet to read, John!

    Anthony Horowitz has also written further stories in the Holmes genre. So fans of both authors are going to be kept busy.

  • Jodah profile image

    John Hansen 

    7 weeks ago from Queensland Australia

    An excellent review, Beth. I have read almost all thee original Sherlock Holmes stories but didn’t know Anthony Horowitz had been engaged to write more post Conan-Doyle. I will be sure to read this.


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