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Clues and questions

BOOKS | An old-style mystery in a contemporary setting

Clues and questions
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ANTHONY HOROWITZ is a prolific crime novelist as well as the creator of the popular British TV show Foyle’s War. In 2017, he published The Word Is Murder, the first installment in his Hawthorne and Horowitz series. In these novels, Horowitz writes himself into the story, making himself the sidekick to the fictional ex-Detective Inspector Daniel Hawthorne.

Horowitz plays Watson to Hawthorne’s Holmes, merely recording what he sees while following the eccentric freelance investigator. But Horowitz gives these stories a meta quality by mingling fictional murder with details from his real life as a bestselling author.

Close to Death, the fifth installment in the series, departs from the typical setup. Instead of working to solve a fresh murder, Hawthorne talks Horowitz into writing about a case he worked on in the past.

The setting is Riverview Close, an idyllic gated community in London that loses its charm after a new neighbor disrupts the convivial atmosphere. Giles Kentworthy is rich and brash, having little respect for the community’s other inhabitants, and after he’s found dead with a crossbow bolt in his neck, it comes out that all his neighbors harbored grudges against him. But which of these grudges ended in murder?

Despite its contemporary setting, Close to Death is reminiscent of those manor-house mysteries from detective fiction’s Golden Age. The murdered man isn’t a sympathetic character, the pool of suspects is relatively small, and everyone seems to have a reason to wish him dead. The book even offers up a locked-room puzzle at one point, though most of the narrative recounts interviews with the various suspects. And while earlier books in the series (especially the second novel) have occasional bad language, Close to Death is free of objectionable material.

Interlaced with the primary mystery of who killed Giles Kentworthy is a secondary mystery Horowitz has been trying to solve over the course of the series. What kind of man is the brilliant, yet taciturn, Hawthorne? Close to Death brings the first mystery to a satisfying conclusion, but the tantalizing details Horowitz uncovers regarding that second mystery only lead to bigger questions.

Collin Garbarino

Collin is WORLD’s arts and culture editor. He is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Louisiana State University and resides with his wife and four children in Sugar Land, Texas.



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