Anthony Horowitz’s fourth book in his series which follows ex-police officer and private detective Hawthorne takes a surprising turn when, for the first time, he becomes the prime suspect in a murder case.
The books in this series are quite unusual in that Horowitz makes himself a fictional character in the book. His fictional counterpart is the sidekick to the protagonist Hawthorne who was fired from the police force after he allegedly kicked a criminal down a set of stairs. However, Hawthorne’s unmatchable skills are still required by the police who hire him from time to time when they reach a dead end in their investigations. Notably, Horowitz’s tone and style isn’t conventional, he includes details about meetings with his agent and conversations with Hawthorne where the detective attempts to persuade Horowitz into writing more books despite the author’s unwillingness. In short, he includes regular bits of commentary that carry the mundanity and greyness of normal life. Horowitz also admits that the star of his books isn’t necessarily likable, with his selective moral compass, his stand-offish attitude, and the lack of information he’s willing to share. It does get somewhat irritating when the furthest Horowitz manages to get with Hawthorne is staying over at his house and snooping around when the detective leaves, which given Hawthorne’s ascetic lifestyle, doesn’t reveal much at all.
Despite Horowitz setting out at the start of the book that he’s averse to writing any more books about Hawthorne, given they only had a deal for three, his mind is changed when he gets thrown into prison for murder. The book does have some parallels to real life with (the real not fictional) Horowitz admitting that he strongly dislikes bad reviews as they take him to a “dark place”. In the novel a notorious critic from The Sunday Times, Harriet Thrisby, butchers Horowitz’s play Mindgame in a jaw-dropping review. Not long afterward she’s found dead, stabbed through the heart with an ornamental dagger that has Horotwitz’s fingerprints all over it. But despite his protests, no one believes his innocence when the evidence is unmistakably stacked against him, it does help that Horowitz has some not-so-pleasant history with the investigating officers. Alone in a dark cell, Horowitz turns to the only person he knows who can help. As they work against the clock to try and catch the killer, clues and secrets unravel along the way.
Horowitz also brings in occasional humor which is particularly entertaining when Hawthorne makes jibes towards Cara Grunshaw, the investigating officer who still holds a grudge against the pair for solving previous cases whilst she arrested the wrong person. Although the novel does slow down in parts and doesn’t necessarily have you on the edge of your seat, it’s still interesting in an Agatha Christie -esque way.
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