Secretary, CADS (Corvus Amateur Drama Society)
“The Word is Murder” & “The Sentence is Death” by Anthony Horowitz
I’ve been a fan of Anthony Horowitz for some years, since my wife bought me “The House of Silk”, a new Sherlock Holmes story commissioned by Conan Doyle’s estate. (Its sequel, “Moriarty” contains one of the biggest rug-pulls in detective fiction, by the way.) An incredibly prolific author, whose work is always superbly crafted and beautifully written, he is possibly best known for the Alex Ryder novels for young teens and for creating the TV series “Foyle’s War” and Midsomer Murders”.
No surprise, then, that he has recently turned his attentions to the “traditional” whodunit, but this being Horowitz, his contributions to the genre are not without their idiosyncrasies. “Magpie Murders”, for instance, starts off by purporting to be the typescript (literally) of a detective story with that title by the late Alan Conway. The only problem for its editor – and us – is that the last chapter is missing…
The rest of the novel has the editor trying to piece together what that last chapter would have been, and what clues are buried in the typescript that might shed light on its author’s own slightly suspicious death. Apart from the many turns and twists in the plot (or plots!), Horowitz includes some deliciously clever if sometimes rather rude word puzzles that will delight anyone as obsessed with crosswords as I am! (Coincidentally, its sequel, “Moonflower Murders”, was published this month and is sitting seductively on my bedside table as we speak.)
However, in an even more imaginative twist on the whodunit, his two novels “The Word is Murder” and “The Sentence is Death” (the first two in a projected series) are remarkable in as much as Horowitz himself is one of the main characters, the Doctor Watson, if you like, to the shambling, secretive, sociopathic but incredibly astute detective Daniel Hawthorne. Events happen around, for instance, the filming of “Foyle’s War”, and Horowitz’s family and publishing colleagues make occasional appearances. This might at first appear to be merely a gimmick, but it works superlatively well in allowing the reader to share the author’s (obviously disingenuous) bafflement at the way the plot unravels, with the surly Hawthorne frustratingly always one step ahead of Horowitz – and us – in his deductions. I can’t wait for the third in the series!