As someone whose own writings have been largely inspired and influenced by the famous works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, I was vaguely aware of Horowitz’s outing with the legendary Sherlock Holmes. However, it was a good while after I first discovered that he had been approached to write the story, that I finally got round to picking it up to read – and, even then, it was only after my fiancée received for Christmas the second story he wrote about the Holmes characters, Moriarty, that I actually decided I would read it.
For a Holmes story, it has all the features and characters one might expect – Holmes, Watson, Mrs Hudson, Lestrade, Mycroft, Wiggins and the Baker Street Irregulars – and even some of the more obscure clients from Holmes’ past stories such as Dr Trevelyan. Horowitz does well to craft the world that Doyle created and does a masterful job of imitating Watson who, as is only right and proper, narrates the story from its outset and generally speaking one could quite happily read this tale and be convinced that it is written by Doyle himself.
As with all good Sherlock Holmes stories, the adventure itself is quite understated and yet thrilling to follow. As with Doyle’s own stories, Horowitz manages to convey a huge amount of excitement in chapters that are, by and large, set in the warmth and comfort of Baker Street without falling in to the trap that has caught so many other writers who veer towards the extravagant in their quest for mystery. Furthermore, where one might expect the mystery to be the centre of the story, Horowitz has replicated Doyle perfectly by arranging his story around the friendship of Holmes and Watson creating what is undeniably a good work of drama in its own right. It speaks volumes to Horowitz’s ability that, for vast passages of the book (and in the style of some of Doyle’s stories themselves such as Hound of the Baskervilles), Holmes himself is absent and yet the story still continues to drive on in Watson’s hands.
However, it is not a story without its flaws. In his quest to replicate Doyle, I rather fancy that Horowitz has overstretched himself. The occasional references to original Doyle stories, whilst undoubtedly meant as a courteous nod to the origin of the character, felt rather to me like they had been purposely placed to add credence to Horowitz’s story. I found this a little distracting, not in the least because I felt that the calibre of the story was so good that it needed no additional help.
Added in to the mix was the surprise appearance of another famous Holmes character who, despite having a whole chapter dedicated to them, seemed to have no impact on the story other than to provide a solution to a problem that Watson discovers Holmes has already solved. With such a well crafted story, where everything mentioned has some sort of bearing on the outcome or the progression of the novel, the character in question seemed to have no purpose whatsoever and, once again, felt as though it had been added to add credence to a story which didn’t actually need it.
That being said, I highly recommend this story. It is a great Holmes tale, worthy of Doyle himself, and one that is definitely worth a read. After finishing it, I almost instantly added Moriarty to my reading list…
I think that says it all really.