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Literature / The House of Silk

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The House of Silk is a Sherlock Holmes pastiche written by Anthony Horowitz. It was published on 1st November 2011 and was officially commissioned and authorised by the Doyle Estate.

Sherlock is dead, and Watson is old and alone. Only now can he write down one of the darkest and most disturbing cases the duo ever investigated. What starts with one seemingly banal case, develops sudden complications and becomes a much more complicated riddle, in the centre of which stands the mysterious House of Silk.

Do not confuse with Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking.

The Tropes of Silk:

  • All Gays Are Pedophiles: An unfortunate association made by the ringleader, comparing the practices of the Ancient Greeks and Persians with, well, child prostitution.
  • Asshole Victim: Mr. Carstairs, the client. Although not directly a victim, he certainly deserved being blackmailed and threatened, given his frequent visits to a child prostitution ring and arranging for the murder of Ross to cover his involvement.
  • Baker Street Regular: Holmes's reliance on them gets deconstructed when Ross, one of the irregulars, gets killed, brutally, because they took a mission.
  • Burn the Orphanage: Once all the legal formalities are done, Watson as good as admits that Holmes burned down the Orphanage of Fear.
  • Clear My Name: Holmes gets framed for the murder of Ross's older sister halfway through the story while investigating the House of Silk.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Catherine Carstairs had one carefully planned for her husband, although we don't discover what the plan was.
  • Darker and Edgier: The Holmes canon certainly had quite a few depraved murderers and even a rapist, but not a pedophile ring..
  • Destroy the Abusive Home: At the end of the story, the orphanage is burned to the ground. Watson mentions that Holmes had been out alone that night, and came back smelling of smoke.
  • Dirty Cop: The detective who arrests Holmes for murder is a customer of the House of Silk.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Even Moriarty draws the line at child prostitution, and gives Holmes and Watson information necessary to crack the case.
    • The man who murdered Ross says he didn't particularly enjoy beating him to death.
  • Frame-Up: Holmes gets framed for a murder halfway through the story.
  • Fix Fic: The book explains two problematic elements from the original Holmes stories: The Baker Street Irregulars no longer see use because Holmes doesn't want any more of them to die as one does here, and Watson forgetting about Moriarty, at Moriarty's express demand, in exchange for information on the House of Silk.
  • He Knows Too Much: The Big Bad assures Holmes that he has too much photographic evidence of his rich and famous clients to be prosecuted. Sure enough, he's killed in prison.
  • Heroic BSoD: Holmes when he realizes he put Ross in harm's way.
  • Karma Houdini: Edmund Carstairs is never prosecuted for his role in events, and returns to his old life with his sister. Watson also considers Catherine this, since although she's spending life in jail, pretty much anyone else in her position would have been executed.
  • Knight Templar Big Sister: After Ross disappears, Watson and Holmes go looking for his sister, who becomes enraged and stabs Watson. She thought Watson was from the House of Silk and wanted to take Ross back there.
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: A gang of robbers ruins an art dealer's paintings → a child prostitution ring.
  • Never Suicide: Eliza Carstairs believes her mother's death in an "accidental" gas leak was suicide out of shame at her son marrying Catherine. She was actually murdered as part of Catherine's plan to kill the whole family and inherit their fortune.
  • Northern Irish and Nasty: Although the plot takes place long before The Troubles, the O'Donoghue twins fit this trope, since it's mentioned they are from (and their mother still lives in) Belfast.
  • Not Me This Time: When Ross was killed, it's first suspected that the person blackmailing Mr. Carstairs was responsible directly or indirectly. At the end of the book, it's revealed that Mr. Carstairs himself had Ross killed to cover up his involvement in a child prostitution ring.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Eliza and Catherine Carstairs hate each other, the former accusing the latter of being a Gold Digger taking advantage of her dear innocent brother, the latter endures her constant criticisms and thinks Eliza's too used to being able to boss around her brother. It turns out Eliza was right, but her "dear innocent brother" isn't any better.
  • Orphanage of Love: What the Chorley Grange House for Boys looks like at a first glance. It's actually an Orphanage of Fear that supplies young boys to rich pedophiles.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Why Watson has hesitated to publish the story because he felt it was too shocking for the public to handle without some years' remove from the actual events.
  • Sherlock Scan: Used several times, not surprisingly. For example, at the very beginning of the book Holmes deduces that Watson has recently fired his servant, that his wife is not at home, and that he missed his train, all from a quick scan of his appearance.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Keelan O'Donoghue turns out to have been Catherine, who disguised herself as a man so she could run a criminal gang with her brother.
  • Unholy Matrimony: The Carstairs' marriage. She is an ex-criminal who swore vengeance on the man who was partly responsible for bringing down her gang and her beloved twin brother, and did so by marrying him, murdering his mother and trying to kill his sister as well as a detective, he's a pedophile and indirectly ordered the murder of his victim. Even Holmes comments on how well-suited they are for each other.
    It occurs to me that, in some ways, your marriage was not perhaps as ill-judged as might be thought. The two of you are made for each other.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Watson goes into some detail in the way he hides a prison key and a coded message inside a book for Holmes. Not only does he not get the chance to use it, Holmes had already escaped.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Lestrade to Holmes about the way he uses his Irregulars.