I’ve just finished reading The House of Silk, by Anthony Horowitz. Published last year, it is a modern addition to the Sherlock Holmes canon that was commissioned by the Conan Doyle estate. Usually I hate prequels and sequels to well-known classics that have been written by present-day authors, so I began this one with a certain amount of scepticism as well as curiosity. However, I finished it in two sittings and I am full of praise. It is excellent! Not only does Anthony Horowitz succeed in capturing exactly the rhythms of Conan Doyle’s prose and in devising a plot that could have come straight from the brain of the master, but his novel also seems to me to be historically accurate; I can find no jarring anachronisms in his depiction of late nineteenth-century London (and I have read many books that were written during this period). Furthermore, the novel resonates with the modern reader by exploring a topic that is, unfortunately, much in the news at the moment: the abuse of vulnerable children.
I still wonder, though, why do it? I can understand why Anthony Horowitz agreed to it, of course! But why did the Conan Doyle estate want this extra book? Why are we so fascinated with modern takes on eras and situations that have already been written about brilliantly by contemporary writers? It is the Downton Abbey syndrome. I can’t explain it.