Horowitz wrote a new story, that includes all our favorite characters, follows Holmes in a fast-paced investigation, and it is narrated by Dr. John Watson.
The entire story is told from his point of view as he thinks back about all the adventures that he has shared with Sherlock Holmes. All the problems, the victories, the ups and downs in their friendship, and most notably, their mutual trust and loyalty.
The book opens with Watson telling us how he almost did not meet Sherlock. This is also the opening in the TV series Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. We see how Watson meets Henry Stamford, they get to talk, Stamford introduces Watson to Sherlock, and on to 221B Baker Street it is.
Watson also tells us in the very beginning of the book that at the time of writing down the story of the House of Silk, Sherlock has passed away.
It is one year after his passing and Watson reflects how he misses his best friend and how he realizes that he will never go on another adventure as he used to with Sherlock. As he reminiscence how he is getting older, he realizes that we need to learn about a story that is as fantastic as it is impossible to tell.
The facts of the case spun a maze too complex to imagine yet Sherlock unraveled it while risking his life to save others. The story is also to horrifying to tell, soul-crushing, yet we must hear it. The events that unfold become more gruesome and cruel with each layer that is uncovered. And every time we meet people during the investigation, they outdo each other in cruelty and vileness.
Watson decides to write down the story but to leave instructions in his estate that the story cannot be made public until 100 years after his passing. He reasons that “perhaps future readers will be more inured to scandal and corruption than my own would have been.”
It is November 1890 and Mary Morston Watson is on her way to visit with her former employer. In the book, Mary used to be a governess and the child she cared for is sick. As he’d be alone, Watson decides to moves back into his old room at 221B Baker Street and enjoy the company of Sherlock and Mrs. Hudson. No sooner has John arrived, a client is brought up the stairs by Mrs. Hudson.
Edmund Carstairs of Wimbledon, referred to Holmes by a friend, is a fine arts dealer. His gallery, Carstairs & Finch, run with business partner Tobias Finch, is doing well.
Cartstairs is being watched and the man watching has now shown up at this home, Ridgeway Hall. He was wearing a particular hat, a flat cap. The weird part was him standing in front of the Hall in plain view. During another encounter, the man is standing underneath a street lamp, clearly visible to all. And then the most inexplicable, third encounter.
At Ridgeway Hall, the man approaches the house, Carstairs calls out, and the man runs directly at him. Expecting a fight, Carstairs braces himself but the man doesn’t charge to attack. He raises his arms to hold up a piece of paper in the air. He reaches Carstairs and presses that piece, a note, in his hand, and then dashes off. The note, no envelope, is in all caps: ST MARY’S CHURCH. TOMORROW. MID-DAY. What does it mean?
We learn about the art purchases by the American Cornelius Stillman at Carstairs & Finch and the transportation of the paintings to his home in Boston. We hear that the Flat Cap gang led by the twins Keelan and Rourke O’Donaghue was tipped off about a money transport by train from New York to Boston. On the same train are the paintings and you can imagine the rest. Stillman contacts the private detective agency of Pinkerton and hires Bill McParland to investigate.
McParland manages to track down the gang, they close in, and many shots are fired. And when the smoke cleares, the gang is found dead except one. One escaped, Keelan O’Donaghue, now assumed to have sailed to the UK to avenge his twin brother. Then Stillman is killed and the hunt for O’Donaghue is on.
“The game’s afoot!”
We meet the Carstairs Family and the servants, Inspector Lestrade, the Baker Street Division consisting of young children Holmes paid for information about O’Donaghue, Tobias Finch, and many more. The Baker Street Division is successful and find O’Donaghue at a hotel. One of the children, Wiggings, goes to get Holmes. Another, Ross, keeps watch. But after Carstairs, Holmes, and Watson arrive at the Hotel with Wiggins, Ross stiffens and it is not from the cold. As Holmes & Watson find O’Donaghue stabbed to death, Ross goes missing.
Who killed O’Donaghue and where is Ross? Do these two have anything in common? The only way to find out is to dig into their pasts. We follow Holmes and Watson as they explore the charity that had taken Ross in, the people in charge there and the other boys, and the tip they get to find Ross’ sister. She demands to know who they are. Are they from the House of Silk? The sister charges, stabs Watson, and then runs off. And then Ross is found dead in the Thames. Every bone in his small body broken, his throat cut, and on one of his wrists, a white silk ribbon, placed on his small wrist after death.
The hunt for O’Donaghue’s and Ross’ killer is on. It will take you on a fast-paced story with many turns, setbacks, and life-threatening situations. We see Holmes in court, in jail, about to be murdered, and a powerless Mycroft Holmes. And then Watson gets help from a most unlikely ally: a criminal with a code of conduct. The House of Silk needs to come down. And when Holmes and Watson finally discover it, it is more sickening than you feared.
This is a book you must read if you love the Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson stories. It is well written, the plot is fantastic, no clue comes out of nowhere, the settings are lively, and heart-breaking scenes are guaranteed.
Highly recommended reading. My other book reviews are here.