I'm a bit puzzled why the Conan Doyle Estate picked Anthony Horowitz to write a Sherlock Holmes pastiche. His nerd credentials include Hercule PoirotI'm a bit puzzled why the Conan Doyle Estate picked Anthony Horowitz to write a Sherlock Holmes pastiche. His nerd credentials include Hercule Poirot for TV and a few other mystery-related items, but I'll bet there are more committed Sherlockians who could've taken on this task. I suspect it's his ability to imitate ACD's writing style, which is cool if you're into Canon, but uncool if you're a modern reader. Here are some pros and cons of this imitation.
PRO: Horowitz did his research. I despise sloppy pastiches. So does the internet. If you're co-opting a character, please show the source material some respect. I think Horowitz does that, and it shows in the timeline. This case is supposed to take place during the "Adventures..." story set, and he references characters from "The Red-Headed League," etc. He has his details down, and doesn't try to insert random ones to twist the material in his favor, like a masturbatory fanfic writer. He treats Inspector Lestrade respectably, and his Watson isn't of the doddering Nigel Bruce variety. (PS - Sorry Nigel. Gotta keep it real, man.) So points for care.
CON: The writing style imitation is... nice, I guess. This is a dark story. There's a pretty horrible secret behind The House of Silk. Horowitz was trying so hard to follow ACD's style that the book missed out on a lot of atmosphere. I guess he gets a pat on a back for accuracy, but few points for actual appeal. People like me read this stuff for Victorian fog, cloaks, etc. Instead of trying to imitate a great, do it your way.
PRO: Unusual Mystery/Twists. I won't spoil what the House of Silk is, but it is pretty bad, and for Victorian times, rather salacious. Like, it's so bad, that (SPOILER!!)a certain Napoleon of Crime even deems it necessary for him to get involved. I'll admit, I thought the word "silk" was a reference to Moriarty, due to the description of him from "The Final Problem" that describes him so: "He sits motionless, like a spider in the center of its web, but that web has a thousand radiations, and he knows well every quiver of each of them." So silk... spider... yeah. Anyways, I was wrong. Cool times.
CON: Imitation = Too Old School. I read a lot of mystery, and I find it kind of lame when the Big Reveals are dependent on secret information being held in someone's head, rather than clues slowly given to the reader. This is "Old School." You'll find it a lot in British Armchair Detective writing like Agatha Christie and Nero Wolfe. I respect those authors for their literary merit, and recognize the Old School, but to me, It's some cheap deux ex machina easy-plot kind of crap, and not very respectful to a mystery-loving reader. If you don't drop the clues, you don't let the reader participate. Otherwise, they're just watching a master work. This is fine if you like character-driven fiction, but not if you're looking for artful storytelling. Sherlock Holmes is the epitome character-driven fiction. People didn't care as much about the stories as they did about him. People liked the deductions as a part of his personality.
Unfortunately, Holmes is of that Old School, and you have to deal with it in Doyle. But, I don't have to tolerate it in modern writing. These days, Modern Mystery is about laying out the Important Clue in the beginning of the story in an offhand way, and that clue doesn't become signficant until later. I call it the "Slap-Your-Head-Say-Duh!" Reveal - it's much more satisfying for a participatory reader. That type of mystery writing developed with Raymond Chandler and the advent of Noir, when murder became more artful (if you're Chandler).
So, in short: Horowitz is bogged down by imitating Doyle, and misses out on the opportunity to do something unique with this character. ...more