“Anthony Horowitz, I am now arresting you on suspicion of the murder of Harriet Throsby.”
Anthony Horowitz has had enough of working with the detective Daniel Hawthorne, writing up the cases that they have worked on in the past. Now, however, Anthony is going to need Hawthorne’s help more than ever.
Anthony’s new play, Mindgame, has been going well on tour, and things seem to bode well for the opening night of its West End run in the Vaudeville Theatre. After the opening night, the cast and crew are all rewarded with ornamental daggers from the backer’s previous production of Macbeth. Unfortunately, Anthony’s has a slight defect – unfortunate in the sense that when it is found sticking out of the body of the show’s primary critic, it seems that Anthony is the obvious suspect.
The critic in question, Harriet Throsby, certainly had a habit of making enemies but would anyone really kill for a bad review. And if Anthony didn’t kill her, then who on earth would want to frame him for murder?
There’s a way that I’m able to tell if I’m engrossed in the mystery element of a book, namely that I have trouble finishing the book. Not in a bad way, I should clarify, just that I keep putting the book down in order to think about what I might have missed along the way. The finest murder mysteries are like jigsaw puzzles when you haven’t the faintest idea of what the picture is and, more importantly, there are a number of background pieces that need to be put together despite them not making part of the big picture – and, admittedly, one or two that are shaped like scarlet fish that need to be ignored, no matter how tempting they might be. The skilled armchair detective can put the pieces together, but the more casual reader will only marvel at what a beautiful picture the pieces made at the end of the day while kicking themselves for trying to jam the fish-shaped bits into the picture.
Such books these days are rare – to be honest, they were pretty rare back in the days of classic mysteries. One author, however, always delivers on this score and yes, it would be weird to write this in this review if it wasn’t Anthony Horowitz. Forget for a moment the fun framing of the book, namely written in the first person by the author telling a tale based around truths of his life – Mindgame is a real play that he wrote, admittedly in 2000, and there are references to trying to write Moonflower Murders. Forget the nicely-drawn circle of suspects, the cast, the director, the backer of the play along with enough tangential characters who may or may not be important to the plot. Forget the enigmatic Hawthorne, whose past we learn another snippet about in this one.
Even putting those aspects aside, this is an excellent murder mystery with almost everything foreshadowed in ways that you probably won’t notice, instead looking in the directions that the author wants you to while slipping the obvious (in hindsight, of course) right past you. This is a masterful mystery, one of the finest that I’ve read this year. According to the author, there are apparently ten books planned in the series – there’s a joke in here about the difficulty of coming up with titles for them – and quite frankly, I can’t wait!
Many thanks to Penguin for the review e-copy via NetGalley. The Twist Of A Knife is out in hardback and ebook on Thursday August 18th.
NB: By the way, ignore the Amazon blurb that says this is a locked room mystery. It’s not, not that it remotely matters…