Anyone who knows me would know that I’m a massive fan of Anthony Horowitz. Whether as a screenwriter, a creator and producer of quality television show, or one of most consistently entertaining and prolific writers in recent years. Horowitz doesn’t know the meaning of resting on one’s laurels. Once one project is finished or near completion, he’s away working on another. I like that in a writer, and he deserves respect, awards, and many more years of literary and screen entertainment.
With this glowing endorsement out of the way, it’s time to come to the meet of this review. A Line To Kill is the third in a series of detective fiction novels featuring the crime-busting duo of police consultant Daniel Hawthorne and bestselling author and television producer Anthony Horowitz. I’ve written in a previous blog about the first two books in this series, The Word is Murder (2017) and The Sentence is Death (2019). The conceit is original. The author inserts himself into the story and we follow the investigation through his eyes and gifted words. Not only does ‘Tony’ and Hawthorne have solve the mystery at hand, but Tony must use his own considerable skills to unearth the enigma that is his partner. Together they have solves two intricate murder cases (well, truth be told it’s been all Howthorne, but Tony does offer suggestions and theories of his own), but Tony knows very little about the man he works with. Whether his name is even Hawthorne is one of the riddles Tony grapples with.
By the time A Line To Kill is over, Tony ponders whether or not he should remain on the fence about Hawthorne and carry on as if nothing has happened. But to get to this realisation, he and Hawthorne take a trip to the island of Aldernay in order to participate in a local literary festival that’s been financed by the wealthiest man on the northernmost of the Channel Islands Charles le Mesurier. Tony is nonplussed about attending, but strangely enough Hawthorne just about has his case packed at the mere mention of the trip. Why, we find out later, but it goes back to a controversial incident in Hawthorne’s police career that led to him quitting the force. Upon arriving at the island, Tony is immediately struck by how odd things are. The collection of authors assembled for the festival are, for lack of a better word, eclectic. There is a successful children’s writer; a spoken word poet of dubious French ancestry; a belligerent D-list celebrity chef and his much put-upon assistant; a blind author who says she communicates with the dead, assisted by her husband; and Tony and Howthorne themselves, on a low-key publicity train for the soon to be released The Word is Murder, the first of their collaborations.
The first quarter of the book is all about Anthony Horowitz putting the characters and pieces into play. This is extraordinarily good fun, and I knew halfway through the first chapter I was going to love A Line To Kill. By the time the obligatory murder takes place, I was drawn in to the intricasies of each character, as well as the history of Aldernay itself. As with all good whodunnits, there are more red herrings than you can shake a stick at, but beneath all of this is the character of Daniel Hawthorne. Because Tony doesn’t know him as well as he thinks he should, he can’t predict what the consultant will do or say next. This leads to a couple of very uncomfortable conversations between the two protagonists.
The mystery itself is fun and winds in a couple of distinctly directions before, voila!, the murderer is unmasked. It’s clever and stylishly done, and once again, Horowitz pulls few punches while still entertaining the reader with some classy dialogue and sleight-of-hand. Without giving too much away, the mystery’s resolution leads to Tony and Hawthorne at a crossroads in their relationship. Where they go from here, well, we’re going to have to wait for Anthony Horowitz to tell us.