Friday Book Whimsy: The Sentence is Death

Author Anthony Horowitz is one of my favorite writers. He is the creator of and writer for two of my favorite Brit mystery programs: Foyle’s War and Midsommer Murder. He has also joined the legion of folks who have written Sherlock Holmes mysteries, but done a much better job of most. With his  2018 novel The Word is Murder, he came up with one of the most clever story ideas I’ve ever come across as a reader. He continues this clever idea in The Sentence is Murder.

What is the idea? With a wink at Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Horowitz writes himself –not a takeoff on himself, but actually his very own person — as a character in the book. In fact, he is Dr. Watson to London private investigator Daniel Hawthorne’s Sherlock Holmes.

London attorney Richard Pryce is found dead in his home, having been hit over the head with a bottle of expensive wine. It seems clear from the get-go that one of his clients — a famous, if odd writer is the murderer. After all, she threatened to kill him with a bottle of wine in front of a restaurant full of people. Still, just like Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, nothing is as it seems.

though Horowitz (the character) is getting much better at figuring out the nuances of the mystery, he still is pretty klutzy when compared to the much-more astute Hawthorne.

The mystery is good, but the real fun is reading about Horowitz’s insecurities and problems around writing and producing real-life shows like Foyle’s War as part of the story line. And it was fun to get to learn a bit more about the heretofore secret life of the brilliant detective Hawthorne.

I loved this book, and can’t wait for the next.

Here is a link to the book.

Friday Book Whimsy: The Word is Murder

Author Anthony Horowitz has created and written some of my favorite mystery television programs — Foyle’s War being my most favorite of all. As a writer of fiction, he is known primarily for his young adult books, with Alex Rider being perhaps the most well-known. But I fell in love with him originally for a book I reviewed a while back called Magpie Murders, a cleverly-written mystery story within a mystery story. Intrigued by that book, I quickly read a couple of Sherlock Holmes stories that he had written. Many have attempted to duplicate Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but most haven’t succeeded. Horowitz did.

I was very excited, therefore, to see that he had a new novel being released. The premise of The Word is Murder was again so, so clever. And the result, I’m happy to say, met my expectations.

In The Word is Murder, Horowitz literally writes himself into the book as one of the characters. A disgraced police detective, let go from the London police force, is hired as a consultant for the case of a mysterious murder of the mother of a famous actor. In Sherlock Holmes/Dr. Watson style, the detective — known only as Hawthorne — hires Horowitz to work with him on a case, and chronicle it by writing a diary.

The actor’s mother visits a funeral home one day, making arrangements for her own funeral. This isn’t particularly unusual. However, what IS unusual is that she is murdered that very afternoon. Hawthorne and Horowitz work together to solve the mystery.

The character of Hawthorne is modeled directly after Sherlock Holmes. He is brilliant and cocky and brash. Horowitz writes himself as a likable Watson.

The ending was a surprise, and quite gratifying.

I will warn you that, while I absolutely LOVED this book — finding it so incredibly clever — I can see where a reader might be turned off by the way Horowitz portrays himself. There is lots of name-dropping, lunches with Stephen Spielberg, and so forth. It didn’t deter me. I recommend this book with great gusto!

Here is a link to the book.

Friday Book Whimsy: Magpie Murders

Magpie Murders, by author Anthony Horowitz, is a refreshing break from many mystery novels with predictable plots and authors that try just a bit too hard to give the reader a surprise ending. Horowitz is the creator and writer of one of my favorite British television crime dramas Foyle’s War, so I was very excited to see what he had up his sleeve with the unusual format of this novel.

Magpie Murders actually gives the readers two separate mysteries to ponder – a mystery within a mystery, so to speak.

Editor Susan Ryeland is given a copy of the manuscript of author Alan Conway’s latest novel featuring his famed detective Atticus Pund. Pund is very much like Agatha Christie’s famed detective Hercule Poirot, spending his time solving mysteries in little English villages, providing his readers with hints and red herrings galore. Since Ryeland has been Conway’s editor from the get-go, she is used to his formula; however, the more she reads, the more she thinks Conway is giving the reader a mystery within a mystery.

She continues to read, but just as Pund is getting ready to gather the suspects together to identify the killer, the story stops. Whaaaaat? The last chapter is missing. Why did Alan Conway not finish the book, but turn it in to his editor anyway shortly before he commits suicide?

Despite being ordered by her boss to leave it well enough alone, Ryeland begins trying to figure out why Conway would end the story in this manner. As you follow along with Ryeland, can you figure out what’s going on?

What I liked best about this book is that in the first chapter, Ryeland sits down with a cup of tea and hours of time and begins to read the manuscript. And then the book is presented to the readers of Magpie Murders just as Ryeland is reading it. And the Pund novel is a fun romp, very reminiscent of Agatha Christie. Manor houses, murders, mysterious guests. If that had been the entire book, I would still be giving it a good review.

But it isn’t. Because suddenly, the book ends, and the second mystery begins. It was so much fun (if you can call murder and suicide fun).

This really is a must-read for lovers of good mysteries with challenging endings, and definitely a must-read for Agatha Christie fans. As for me, I’m on the lookout for other books by this author.

Here is a link to the book.