A Line To Kill (2021) by Anthony Horowitz

There has never been a murder on Alderney – but there’s a first time for everything…

When an invite arrives for Anthony Horowitz and ex-police detective Daniel Hawthorne to attend a literary convention on the small Channel Island, Horowitz is astonished that Hawthorne, a generally private person, is keen to take part. Once they arrive, the reason becomes clear – the man who ended Hawthorne’s career is on the island.

The island is in turmoil due to a plan for a power line from France to England that will, amongst other things, desecrate a war cemetery. When the guiding power behind  the plan – and the sponsor behind the festival – is found murdered, there seems to a surfeit of suspects, both from the locals and from the authors from the festival. But with so many motives, and Hawthorne distracted by his past, will the murderer escape justice?

The third Daniel Hawthorne mystery, following The Word Is Murder and The Sentence Is Death, where Anthony “Tony” Horowitz is narrating his own adventures that are going to be the source for future books. So are these the books that he is talking about writing? Or are these the actual events that are going to inspire fictional books? Best not to think too hard about it. At one point, there is a discussion between Tony and his agent about the titles, and the point is raised that they are rapidly going to run out of possibilities. You might make a case that they already have, as I’d say the phrase is “A Line To Kill For” – the phrase “A Line To Kill” is used in the book, but it felt a bit forced to be honest.

That’s the sole problem with the book. So as you might expect, I rather enjoyed this one.

Readers of Magpie Murders and Moonflower Murders may be surprised as to how much of a straightforward mystery this is, especially with its meta-ish premise. But it should be said, while it is a straightforward mystery, it’s riddled with those clue thingies that are so often absent from modern mysteries.

The setting is very traditional, with a closed circle of suspects, most clearly identified as such but with a couple of other characters applying for the role of “least likely suspect”. All of the characters have motives, some obvious, some less-so, and most have opportunity. Add in the oddness of the body – the victim is found bound hand and foot to a chair, but with his right hand untied for some reason – and this book ticks all of the traditional mystery boxes. There are a few “should have spotted that” moments during the multiple revelations – as with all good mysteries, every suspect is up to something – and while the reader might work out bits of it, it’s highly doubtful that they’ll spot everything.

I didn’t spot the murderer, by the way. I had a few ideas, one in particular. It’s worth mentioning that, as I basically fell into the trap that Horowitz laid for smart-arses like me. I know that, because at the start of the last chapter, “Tony” mentions in his narration that he thought the murderer was “X”, an unlikely character that most people wouldn’t consider. Yes, it was the same person that I thought was guilty, thinking I was being dead clever about it. Well played, Mr Horowitz, you made me feel like a right plonker.

Oh, and there’s some interesting developments in Hawthorne’s background that I wasn’t expecting. It’s clear that this series is going to run and run, and I’m looking forward immensely to the next one already. If only to see what the title will be… “The Pen Is Poisoned” sort of works…

To sum up, this is an outstanding mystery that kept me gripped and completely fooled me. Echoing all of the traditions of classic mystery fiction while maintaining a modern feel, this is exactly the sort of book that I’m always looking for.

A Line To Kill is out on Thursday 19th August from Random House UK. Many thanks for the review e-copy.

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