As expected, I really enjoyed A Line to Kill. I don’t believe I have ever been disappointed by an Anthony Horowitz mystery, he is just so good at writing plain good mystery novels. He comes up with good stories, interesting characters, twisty plots and he can just be very funny. A lot of the humour is aimed at himself in this series, because he has made one of the characters a fictionalised version of himself. This gives him the opportunity to mock himself, writers and literary festivals. Horowitz gets to play Watson to former-police-detective-turned-consultant Hawthorne, Horowitz’s ‘Sherlock Holmes’. This is the third book in this series, so we’ve had the development of Hawthorne and Horowitz’s relationship over several books now and it just keeps getting better. But unlike Holmes and Watson whose relationship gets closer over their books, Hawthorne and Horowitz’s relationship seems to get worse.
Although this is the third book in the series, the basic plot is that Horowitz has written the first Hawthorne book, it is nearing publication and his publisher has arranged for him and Hawthorne to attend a new Literary Festival in Alderney, one of the Channel Islands. Horowitz is behind schedule with writing the second book in the series, and when a murder occurs on the island, is unsure that it is a good subject for the third book, and even whether he really wants to write a third book. One of the lines I really liked in this book comes when Horowitz is considering what to call the second book. With the first book called The Word is Murder, he decides that the second should be called The Sentence is Death. He quips: “although I was already beginning to worry that quite soon I would run out of titles with grammatical allusions.” I loved this because after the first two books, I had been wondering what he would be able to come up as the title for the third book.
When the first murder finally happens, it’s a pretty gruesome one, with the wealthy sponsor of the festival killed at a party he hosts for the festival attendees. There are suspects galore, with his wife, all the writers (a children’s book writer, a celebrity chef and offsider, a local historian, a blind psychic and a French performance poet), and almost everyone else we meet on the island. Everyone has something to hide, even Hawthorne who has a past relationship with an employee of the victim. Horowitz has his own ideas on who might be responsible, but he misses all of the significant clues that Hawthorne picks up on, and is stunned at the end when Hawthorne outlines what happened and who is responsible. In true Golden Age style, there is a twist at the end, just when you think that the mystery has been solved.
It is very easy to accept the premise of this book, that it really does chronicle actual murders that Hawthorne investigates while Horowitz shadows him to get all the details for the stories. This metafiction using the first person point of view adds to the enjoyment of the story. Now that the original conceit of a three book publishing deal has been completed, I was happy to see that Horowitz left the story open for more books in the series, with Horowitz receiving something at the end that leaves him with even more questions about Hawthorne’s past than he had at the beginning.
This is a great modern mystery with the feel of the Golden Age. Highly recommended.