The Twist of a Knife by Anthony Horowitz

This series, of which The Twist of a Knife is the fourth book, takes as its premise the idea that the author Anthony Horowitz himself is one of the main characters, enlisted by the fictional detective Daniel Hawthorne to write books about the cases he investigates. It’s a concept that some people love and others hate, but if you have followed this series through to its fourth outing you probably, like me, fall into the first category. If you’re yet to read any of these books, you could start with this one if you want to as it does stand alone, but I would recommend beginning with the first, The Word is Murder, if you can. Either way, try one and see what you think!

The Twist of a Knife begins with Hawthorne trying to persuade Horowitz to write another book about him, but Anthony has other plans. He had only agreed to a three-book deal and that is now complete; now he’s working on a different novel – Moonflower Murders – and preparing for the London opening of his play, Mindgame. However, as Anthony himself then admits, the fact that we, the reader, are holding a fourth Hawthorne novel in our hands proves that somehow Hawthorne must get what he wants!

The story then moves on to the first night of Mindgame at London’s Vaudeville Theatre. The play has been very well received on tour and Horowitz is hoping that London audiences will like it just as much. Everything goes smoothly on that first night, but as Anthony and the cast get together in the green room after the play, the first review comes in – and it’s a bad one. In fact, it couldn’t be much worse. Written by the critic Harriet Throsby for the Sunday Times, the review is rude, scathing and insulting, placing most of the blame on Horowitz’s writing. When Harriet is found stabbed to death the next morning, suspicion immediately falls on Horowitz and he is arrested for murder. His only hope is that Hawthorne can find the real culprit and clear his name – but what will Hawthorne expect in return?

I think this could be my favourite of the four books in this series. I loved the theatrical setting and I found the mystery a particularly interesting one. Just about everyone involved with the play Mindgame has both the motive and the opportunity to have killed Harriet and I enjoyed learning more about each of the suspects – I did pick up on some of the clues, but certainly not all of them and I didn’t guess who the murderer was until the truth was revealed in an Agatha Christie-style denouement at the end of the book. Mindgame is a real play written by Horowitz which was first performed in 1999, although in this book it’s presented as a new work and the actors, director and events of the opening night are fictional. It sounds like a fascinating play and I’m tempted to read it, although it sounds like one that would have to be seen on stage to fully appreciate.

Daniel Hawthorne remains a private, secretive person, as he has from the beginning of the series, but with each book a few more facts about him are uncovered. In this book, Horowitz has the chance to spend some time in Hawthorne’s home and makes one or two intriguing discoveries which I’m sure will be explored further in the next book. I’m assuming there will be a next book – in fact, there were hints at the end of this one that we could have several more to look forward to. I hope so, although I would still prefer another book about Susan Ryeland and Atticus Pünd to follow Magpie Murders and Moonflower Murders!

Thanks to Century for providing a copy of this book for review via NetGalley.

Book #1 read for R.I.P. XVII

A Line to Kill by Anthony Horowitz

This is the third book in the Hawthorne and Horowitz mystery series; I enjoyed the first two, The Word is Murder and The Sentence is Death, and when I saw that the fourth book, The Twist of a Knife, is coming out in August it reminded me that I needed to catch up with this one.

If you’re not familiar with this series, I should start by telling you that it’s based around an unusual concept: the author Anthony Horowitz himself is one of the main characters, enlisted by the detective Daniel Hawthorne to write books about the cases he investigates. In this third novel, Horowitz and Hawthorne have been invited to attend a literary festival on the island of Alderney, one of the Channel Islands. There has never been a murder on Alderney before, as the islanders are quick to assure them, but this all changes soon after their arrival when an influential local businessman is found dead under suspicious circumstances.

There are plenty of suspects, including most of our duo’s fellow festival guests: a celebrity chef with a set of annoying catchphrases, a children’s author whose work has just been bought by Disney, a blind psychic who claims to hear voices from the spirit world and a French performance poet who is not all she seems. To complicate things further, the dead man has been at the centre of a controversial new scheme to run an electric power line across the island, something which has received a lot of opposition from the residents of Alderney. It seems that Hawthorne has found his next mystery to solve – and Horowitz has found his next novel.

I didn’t love this book as much as the first two in the series, maybe because I found the characters a particularly unpleasant bunch, but it’s still a clever, entertaining and absorbing murder mystery of the ‘locked room’ type – in which the whole island could be seen as the locked room, as once the murder takes place none of the suspects are allowed to leave. I think this is almost certainly the first and only book I’ve read with Alderney as a setting; I’m sure there must be others, but I’ve never come across them. The festival Anthony and Hawthorne attend is fictional, but in real life the island is establishing a literary reputation for itself, with an annual historical fiction festival and a recent Gothic literature event.

When writing yourself into a novel, it must be tempting to give yourself the starring role, but in this book that honour definitely goes to Daniel Hawthorne. With a lot of self-deprecating humour, Horowitz casts himself as the Watson to Hawthorne’s Holmes, always one step behind while Hawthorne picks up on clues that nobody else has even noticed. This creates a lot of tension between them (particularly when Anthony discovers that the festival-goers have no interest in his books – they only want to hear Hawthorne talk about the crimes he has solved). Their relationship has been a difficult one since the first novel, partly because Hawthorne is so secretive and shows Horowitz only the worst side of his personality. We are slowly learning a little bit more about him, but there’s still a lot we – and Anthony – don’t know.

I’m looking forward to reading The Twist of a Knife very soon…but what I’m really hoping for is a third book in the Magpie Murders series!

Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz

A few years ago I read Anthony Horowitz’s Magpie Murders, a wonderful, imaginative novel containing a story-within-a-story – the outer one being a crime story set in the contemporary publishing world and the inner one being an entire Golden-Age-style murder mystery featuring a detective called Atticus Pünd. When I finished that book I remember feeling disappointed that there weren’t more Atticus Pünd novels to read, so I was delighted to find that Horowitz’s latest book, Moonflower Murders, is written in the same format.

Both books stand alone so it’s not essential to have read Magpie Murders before starting Moonflower Murders (although there are a few references in this one to the events of the previous book). At the beginning of the novel, we rejoin Susan Ryeland who is now running a small hotel in Crete with her boyfriend, Andreas. It’s not quite the idyllic life Susan had hoped for, though, and just as she is beginning to long for her old career in publishing, two guests approach her with an intriguing proposition.

Their names are Lawrence and Pauline Treherne and they run a hotel of their own in England, where a murder took place eight years ago. Stefan Codrescu, one of the hotel employees, was found guilty of the murder, but the Trehernes’ daughter, Cecily, has always believed him to be innocent. Now Cecily has disappeared, just after telling her parents that she had uncovered a clue in an Alan Conway novel called Atticus Pünd Takes the Case which proves that the wrong man had been charged with the crime. Knowing that Susan was the editor who worked on the Atticus Pünd novels in her publishing days, the Trehernes have come to ask for her help. What was the clue Alan Conway hid within the pages of his novel? Is Stefan innocent or guilty? And what has happened to Cecily?

After several chapters in which Susan begins to investigate the events of eight years earlier and how they could be connected with Cecily’s disappearance, we have the pleasure of reading the whole of Atticus Pünd Takes the Case, a detective novel dealing with the murder of a famous actress. Although this story-within-a-story is enjoyable in its own right, at first it’s not clear how it is linked to the murder at the Trehernes’ hotel, but Susan’s knowledge of how Alan Conway’s mind worked helps her to pick out possible hints and clues. I certainly didn’t manage to solve the mysteries – either the one in the Pünd story or the one in the framing story – myself, but I enjoyed watching everything unfold.

I didn’t love this book quite as much as Magpie Murders, probably because I already knew what to expect so it didn’t feel as original, but it was still hugely entertaining and, like the previous novel, packed with word games and other little puzzles cleverly woven into the text. And of course, as an Agatha Christie fan I adore the Atticus Pünd stories in both books, which are such perfect homages to Christie herself. As we have been told that the fictional author Alan Conway apparently wrote a whole series of Atticus Pünd novels, I hope Anthony Horowitz will give us the opportunity to read at least one more of them!

Thanks to Random House UK for providing a copy of this book for review via NetGalley.

This is book 12/20 from my 20 Books of Summer list.

The Sentence is Death by Anthony Horowitz

I loved The Word is Murder, Anthony Horowitz’s first book to feature the detective Daniel Hawthorne, so when I heard that there was going to be a second book I couldn’t wait to read it. I didn’t have to wait too long, as this one has been published only a year after the first, and I’m pleased to report that I enjoyed it just as much, if not more.

When high profile divorce lawyer Richard Pryce is found bludgeoned to death with an expensive bottle of wine, the culprit seems quite obvious. Just days earlier, Pryce had been threatened by a client’s ex-wife who poured a glass of wine over his head in a restaurant. Surely that can’t be a coincidence? But Pryce has plenty of other enemies, whose identities come to light as investigations continue. Could one of them have wanted him dead? And what is the significance of the numbers painted on the wall near Pryce’s body? As this is clearly a more complex case than it seemed at first, ex-police detective Hawthorne is asked to assist with solving the crime.

Having worked with Hawthorne on his previous mystery in The Word is Murder, author Anthony Horowitz reluctantly agrees to team up with him again and document the progress of the investigations in a second book, The Sentence is Death. Hawthorne is supposed to be the hero of the book, but this time Anthony decides to do some detecting of his own in the hope of reaching the solution first. Can he solve the mystery before Hawthorne does?

If this sounds confusing, I should explain that, as in the previous novel, Horowitz is a character in his own book. The Anthony in the story is clearly based on the author himself – he frequently discusses his career as a novelist and screenwriter and refers to his wife and his publisher by name – yet he interacts with fictional characters, takes part in fictional storylines and struggles to solve the mystery the real Horowitz has created. I think it’s a clever concept and great fun, though not everyone will agree – it’s probably something you’ll either love or you won’t.

It’s not really necessary to have read the first book before starting this one as the mysteries are entirely separate. Like the first, this is a strong, well-constructed mystery with plenty of clues but plenty of red herrings as well. I didn’t manage to solve it (I confess that I allowed myself to be distracted and misled by every one of those red herrings) but I was happy to be kept in suspense and wait for Hawthorne – or Anthony, of course, if he got there first – to explain it all for me.

However, I would still recommend reading both books in order if you can, so that you can watch the progression of Anthony’s relationship with Hawthorne. Hawthorne is no more pleasant or likeable now than he was when we first met him in The Word is Murder, and he is still every bit as much of an enigma, but we do pick up a few new bits of information about him here, with some glimpses of his home and his life away from his detection work. I think he’s a great character, for all of his flaws, and I love his partnership with the fictional Anthony.

When I read the first novel I found the details of Anthony’s publishing and television career a slight distraction from the main plot, but in this book they seemed to form a more intrinsic part of the story and I liked that aspect much more. Horowitz seems to be having fun at the expense of his fictional self, as Anthony stumbles from one disaster to another; I particularly enjoyed the opening scenes on the set of Foyle’s War and a later scene involving the theft of a book – and I’m curious to know whether the literary fiction author Akira Anno was based on a real person (although if she was, I doubt her true identity will ever be revealed).

I loved this book – and the good news for Horowitz and Hawthorne fans is that there’s going to be a third.

Thanks to Century for providing a copy of this book for review via NetGalley.

The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz

One bright spring morning Diana Cowper walks into a funeral parlour to arrange her own funeral. Six hours later she is dead, strangled in her own home. It can’t be a coincidence…can it? Detective Inspector Daniel Hawthorne – who is technically no longer with the police but still assists with particularly challenging cases – is called in to investigate. This is to be an investigation with a difference, however, because Hawthorne has enlisted the services of author Anthony Horowitz to write a book about the case.

Horowitz has never written a true-crime book before and admits to being much more comfortable when writing fiction such as his Sherlock Holmes sequel The House of Silk or the Alex Rider young adult series. It is with some reservations, then, that he agrees to write Hawthorne’s story, but as he accompanies the detective while he interviews suspects and searches for clues, Horowitz is drawn into the investigation despite himself.

The two have very different visions for their book; Horowitz believes in using artistic licence to tell a story that people will want to read, but Hawthorne is adamant that he should report only the facts, leaving nothing out that could be of significance. The author also tries in vain to get to know the detective, to shape him into a character who will stand alongside Holmes and Poirot, but the other man remains frustratingly enigmatic:

“Well, if I was going to write about you, you’d have to tell me. I’d have to know where you live, whether you’re married or not, what you have for breakfast, what you do on your day off. That’s why people read murder stories.”

“Is that what you think?”


He shook his head. “I don’t agree. The word is murder. That’s what matters.”

I started to read The Word is Murder with very high hopes, having loved Horowitz’s previous novel, Magpie Murders (one of my favourite books of last year). I wasn’t disappointed; this is another great book! In fact, like Magpie Murders – but in a different way – it is almost two books in one. We have the story of Horowitz and his relationship with Hawthorne and then we have the murder investigation itself. I’m aware that I’ve said very little so far about the latter – and I’m not going to say much more, other than that it is a very clever, tightly plotted mystery with plenty of clues, suspects and red herrings. Thanks to Hawthorne’s insistence on everything being written down, most of the clues are there from the beginning and the rest are at least revealed early enough for us to guess the solution before Horowitz does. I have to admit, though, that I was slow to put them together and didn’t come close to solving the mystery!

I should probably make it clear that Diana Cowper is a fictional character – she wasn’t really murdered six hours after arranging her own funeral and Hawthorne, who is also fictional, wasn’t really brought in to investigate. Anthony Horowitz, however, is obviously a real person and so The Word is Murder is a curious blend of fiction and non-fiction. He is not the first author to use themselves as a character in their own novel, but I’m not sure if anyone else has done it in quite the same way!

Although the passages in which Horowitz describes his various writing projects, his appearances at book festivals and his views on literary agents are a bit of a distraction from the central plot at times, his main role in the story is as a sort of Watson-style sidekick, and this aspect of the novel works very well. As for Hawthorne, he has quite an unpleasant personality, being humourless, secretive, pedantic, and – to Horowitz’s disgust – homophobic, but I found him a fascinating character, precisely because he is so unattractive. They are an unlikely pairing but there is plenty of potential here for more Hawthorne/Horowitz mysteries, I think – I would certainly be happy to read them, anyway!

Thanks to the publisher, Random House, for providing a copy of this book for review via NetGalley.

My Commonplace Book: October 2016

A summary of last month’s reading, in words and pictures.

commonplace book
a notebook in which quotations, poems, remarks, etc, that catch the owner’s attention are entered

Collins English Dictionary


“Most people only want a quiet life,” I said. “Even those of us who were once radicals.” I smiled wryly at Roger. He nodded in acknowledgement.

“Fanatics on both sides,” old Ryprose said gloomily. “And all we poor ordinary folk in the middle. Sometimes I fear they will bring death to us all.”

Revelation by CJ Sansom (2008)



“Books,” the driver resumed. “I’m a great reader. I am. Not poetry. Love stories and murder books. I joined one o’ them” – he heaved a long sigh; with vast effort his mind laboured and brought forth – “circulatin’ libraries”. He brooded darkly. “But I’m sick of it now. I’ve read all that’s any good in it.”

The Moving Toyshop by Edmund Crispin (1946)


“We shall wait upon tomorrow,” he said.

“But – what if tomorrow is worse than today?”

“Then we shall wait upon the day after tomorrow.”

“And so forth?” I asked.

“And so forth,” Dogger said.

The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley (2014)


In his masterwork, The Landscape of Criminal Investigation, Atticus Pünd had written: ‘One can think of the truth as eine vertiefung – a sort of deep valley which may not be visible from a distance but which will come upon you quite suddenly. There are many ways to arrive there. A line of questioning that turns out to be irrelevant still has the power to bring you nearer to your goal. There are no wasted journeys in the detection of a crime.’

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz (2016)


“But seriously Poirot, what a hobby! Compare that to -” his voice sank to an appreciative purr – “an easy chair in front of a wood fire in a long low room lined with books – must be a long room – not a square one. Books all round one. A glass of port – and a book open in your hand. Time rolls back as you read.”

The Labours of Hercules by Agatha Christie (1947)



“Watch and wait,” says Burghley. “You have a valuable nugget of information, but that is all it is at this stage. Watch the lady; watch and wait.” Cecil is reminded of being fleeced by a card trickster once, who had said the very same thing – watch the lady. He lost all the gold buttons from his doublet. That was a lesson learned.

Watch the Lady by Elizabeth Fremantle (2015)


Sometimes I would like to cry. I close my eyes. Why weren’t we designed so that we can close our ears as well? (Perhaps because we would never open them.) Is there some way that I could accelerate my evolution and develop earlids?

Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson (1995)


Why the Egyptian, Arabic, Abyssinian, Choctaw? Well, what tongue does the wind talk? What nationality is a storm? What country do rains come from? What color is lightning? Where does thunder go when it dies?

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury (1962)



And as the seconds and minutes moved on, I pondered Man’s efforts at the representation or ‘capture’ of Time, and I thought how, for Clockmakers like Hollers, the very Commodity with which they were trying to work was a heartless and capricious Enemy, who stole from them all the while and never rested.

Merivel: A Man of His Time by Rose Tremain (2013)


A Gothic gate, richly ornamented with fret-work, which opened into the main body of the edifice, but which was now obstructed with brush-wood, remained entire. Above the vast and magnificent portal of this gate arose a window of the same order, whose pointed arches still exhibited fragments of stained glass, once the pride of monkish devotion. La Motte, thinking it possible it might yet shelter some human being, advanced to the gate and lifted a mossy knocker. The hollow sounds rung through the emptiness of the place. After waiting a few minutes, he forced back the gate, which was heavy with iron work, and creaked harshly on its hinges…

The Romance of the Forest by Ann Radcliffe (1791)


I could not possibly go home, I reflected, and add as a serious contribution to the study of women and fiction that women have less hair on their bodies than men, or that the age of puberty among the South Sea Islanders is nine — or is it ninety? — even the handwriting had become in its distraction indecipherable. It was disgraceful to have nothing more weighty or respectable to show after a whole morning’s work.

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf (1929)



Not everyone can write as legibly as I; Father made me spend hours at my tablets, saying that my poems must be written down by me as I myself have composed them, so they will not be distorted in later years by other singers. “For you have great gifts from the Muses,” he said. “I would not have them lost to the world that comes after.”

Burning Sappho by Martha Rofheart (1974)


“I ain’t in the habit of picking other folks’ roses without leave,” said she.

As Rebecca spoke she started violently and lost sight of her resentment, for something singular happened. Suddenly the rosebush was agitated violently as if by a gust of wind, yet it was a remarkably still day. Not a leaf of the hydrangea standing on the terrace close to the rose trembled.

“What on earth -” began Rebecca; then she stopped with a gasp at the sight of the other woman’s face. Although a face, it gave somehow the impression of a desperately clutched hand of secrecy.

Small and Spooky edited by M.R. Nelson (2016)


Time was not something then we thought of as an item that possessed an ending, but something that would go on forever, all rested and stopped in that moment. Hard to say what I mean by that. You look back at all the endless years when you never had that thought. I am doing that now as I write these words in Tennessee. I am thinking of the days without end of my life.

Days Without End by Sebastian Barry (2016)


“You don’t think there’ll really be a war, do you?” she asked anxiously, as her work was for the maimed wrecks of men left by the 1914-18 war – and I could understand her horror of another. But when I looked at the Green Cat I was not sure and I did not reply.

A Chelsea Concerto by Frances Faviell (1959)


Favourite books read in October: Revelation, The Moving Toyshop and Magpie Murders

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

magpie-murders It’s been nearly a week since I finished reading the wonderful Magpie Murders, but it wasn’t until this morning that I felt able to start writing my review. I loved it – it’s one of my books of the year, without a doubt – but I’ve spent a lot of time staring at a blank screen wondering what I could possibly say about it that would explain exactly why I loved it without spoiling things for future readers in the process. The reason I’ve found this such a difficult book to write about is because it’s a mystery novel which contains not just one mystery, but two – and part of the fun was in not only trying to solve each one, but also in discovering the connections between the two.

The novel opens with Susan Ryeland, editor for Cloverleaf Books, a small, independent publisher, settling down to read the latest manuscript from bestselling author, Alan Conway. Conway has achieved enormous success with his series of Golden-Age-style crime novels featuring the detective Atticus Pünd. Susan has never liked the author but she loves his books and has high hopes for his new one, Magpie Murders.

We are then given the privilege of reading the manuscript of Magpie Murders in – almost, but not quite – its entirety. This story-within-a-story is set in the 1950s in the little English village of Saxby-on-Avon. One of the villagers, Mary Blakiston, has been found dead at the bottom of the stairs in Pye Hall, where she worked as a cleaner, and Pünd has been called in to investigate. The story has everything you would expect from a classic whodunnit – plenty of red herrings, some intriguing clues, a long list of suspects all with secrets to hide, an eccentric detective and his hapless sidekick. It’s a real treat for anyone who enjoys reading Agatha Christie!

Eventually the manuscript comes to an end and we return to the present day, where a second mystery, every bit as perplexing as the one we have just been reading, is beginning to take shape. As Susan tries to draw parallels between the fictional world of Saxby-on-Avon and the private life of its creator, Alan Conway, she finds that Magpie Murders really is one of those life-changing books which, until now, she thought were just a cliché.

This is one of the most compelling mystery novels I’ve read for a long time. Both the fictional story and the ‘real life’ one had me completely gripped, trying to figure out which clues were important and which were designed to mislead us, who had a valid alibi and who didn’t…needless to say, I failed to solve either of the mysteries and fell into most of the traps that had been set for the reader. I didn’t mind, though – I was happy just to watch everything unfold as more information came to light and secrets were revealed.

There were so many other things to enjoy…the insights into the publishing world, the little puzzles and word games woven into the plot, even the chapter titles based on the One for Sorrow nursery rhyme. My only disappointment is that the rest of the Atticus Pünd mysteries referred to in the novel don’t really exist. I loved Alan Conway’s Magpie Murders so much I’m now desperate to read Atticus Pünd Investigates, Atticus Pünd Takes the Case, Gin & Cyanide, and all of the others – apart from maybe Night Comes Calling, but I’m not telling you why!

This is the first of Anthony Horowitz’s adult novels I’ve read, although I do remember, as a child, reading one of his Diamond Brothers detective stories. His recent Sherlock Holmes novels The House of Silk and Moriarty didn’t appeal, but now I’m wondering if I should give them a try. Has anyone read them? And have I convinced you to read Magpie Murders? I hope so!

Thanks to Orion for providing a review copy via NetGalley