125 years after his first appearance, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective Sherlock Holmes continues to capture our imagination, whether in the Robert Downey Jr film, the BBC’s superlative reimagining Sherlock, or the New York based TV show Elementary, which reaches UK shores this autumn. It’s hardly surprising then that there are a huge number of spin off novels in existence, albeit many of questionable quality; however Horowitz’s official mystery, commissioned by the Conan Doyle estate, stands out as being a slick, clever mystery that you feel even the great man himself would approve of.
Set in the twilight days of a dwindling Doctor Watson, this purports to be an old case file, kept secret all these years as it was too shocking and controversial to be published when its protagonists were alive. Although the story has twists and red herrings aplenty, it does suffer from the fact that, in these 24-hour-news-cycle, post-serial-killer days the crime (though horrible) isn’t actually that shocking, and the criminals-with-friends-in-high-places theme is one that has been much overused in Sherlock Holmes stories, most notably those relating to Jack the Ripper.
But for fans it’s not really the plot, however well-crafted, that will grip you: it’s Horowitz’s loving recreation of Conan Doyle’s style. His Watson, wistfully remembering the glory days with his truest friend, feels utterly convincing and the denouement is genuinely moving. I’m sure more rabid Sherlockians will find plenty to nitpick, but for everyone else, this is an enjoyable and entertaining read, and a welcome return for England’s greatest detective.