The Sentence Is Death by Anthony Horowitz

“You shouldn’t be here. It’s too late.”

Author Anthony Horowitz is in a spot of bother – filming of the latest scene of Foyle’s War isn’t going to plan and he’s running behind on his novel detailing the first case he investigated with Daniel Hawthorne (as detailed in The Word Is Murder). He soon finds those issues paling into insignificance when Hawthorne enlists his help in a new case.

Lawyer Richard Pryce has been found bludgeoned to death. Oddly, as Pryce was a teetotaller, the murder weapon was a bottle of wine. A bottle of wine worth £3,000 to be precise. What was the meaning of Pryce’s last words? And why did someone paint a 3-digit number in green paint on the wall next to his body?

Now, I liked the preceding title The Word Is Murder a lot but I preferred Horowitz’s Magpie Murders. I thought the killer in the first Hawthorne book was a bit too guessable and some of the clueing a little tangential. But the desire to put a fresh spin on the classic mystery shone through and as such, I was very much looking forward to the second title. Unfortunately, I’ve been a bit distracted with my Countdown to 1000 to look at anything new, so this has been sitting, glaring at me from my Kindle. But was it worth the wait?

The negatives, first of all. I didn’t like the police characters in this one – they seemed a bit stereotyped and could have done with some depth. Of course, that’s quite common in classic fiction, so maybe Horowitz is choosing to embrace the trope.

Sorry, I misspoke. I should have said “negative”, not “negatives”.

I’ve been carrying this around with me on my Kindle over the last day or so – sorry to Frances Brody who I promised Review 1001 to, but I’m so busy at the moment that it’s much easier to read ebooks, but A Snapshot Of Murder is coming very soon – grabbing a chapter when I can. I can’t actually remember the last time I was reading a book this enthusiastically. Possibly The Hollow Man, but I knew what happened in that one as I’d read it before, which diluted the effect for me. Probably Puzzle For Wantons, a similarly layered plot.

This is a fantastic mystery, cleverly clued with so many clues hidden in plain sight that you won’t spot and a well-hidden villain. I felt I should have spotted it as it had an echo of a book that I’d read a while ago (only a faint echo) but still missed it completely. Suspicions ricochet around for the reader as well as for Horowitz (the character, not the writer) and Horowitz’s determination to be the one who deduces the killer first gives a nice motivation to his Watson-like role. The suspects are nicely varied and distinctive bunch, with clearly defined motives – some open, some discovered as the plot progresses – and the conclusion is, I thought, extremely satisfying.

One sort-of disappointment is the plot thread of the boy living upstairs from Hawthorne. I presume this will be continued in the next title. It’s not as if I need any more convincing after such a great read to come back for more. Horowitz keeps referring to a three book deal with Hawthorne in the story, so fingers crossed for another one. In the meantime, do check this out – the perfect Christmas present for the mystery lover in your family. Highly Recommended.

The Sentence Is Death was released on 1st November 2018 from the Century imprint of Cornerstone (which is part of Penguin Random House.) Many thanks for the review e-copy.

9 comments

  1. I sadly began The Word Is Murder knowing the identity of the killer. 😦 (I liked it anyway!) So I refuse to do more than skim your review, PD, because I don’t want to know a single plot detail. (And half the fun of Horowitz is in the details!) Still, I’m thrilled to see the words “This is a fantastic mystery . . . ” It has been sitting on my shelf for a month and I don’t know when I will get to it, but I will get to it!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I preferred Word to Magpie actually. I found all the parts of Magpie easy to solve but did not solve Word. And I like the presentation of the logic in Word very much.

    It’s a cute variation on Ellery Queen as detective isn’t it, Anthony Horowitz as Hastings.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have started reading the book.
    I was a bit perplexed initially on reading the following in chapter 3: ” He was (alone) last night. He was married but his husband was away.” At first I thought that there was a printing mistake but I soon realised that it is possible nowadays for even a male to have a husband ! I remembered Christopher Lord (author of The Christmas Carol Murders) making a similar statement about himself at amazon: “I now live in Portland with my husband.”

    Like

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