Anthony Horowitz is a highly successful author. We have reviewed a couple of his murder mysteries and found them quite diverting. He has made a ton of money from his television scripts, his Alex Rider series for young adults, his Holmes and Watson books, and his ventures into cosy detective fiction.
Moonflower Murders and Magpie Murders, the cosies, were characterised by a step into meta fiction. We meet an editor who is reading a work by one of her authors, we go deep into that work and that mystery, then the story comes to a halt, because the author has been murdered. For me they were summer reads, clever and well located. Now, with winter coming on apace, I have tried two books in another of his detective series. This time the detective is an ex-Scotland Yard cop called Daniel Hawthorne, but Horowitz has taken the meta fiction even further. He is a character in his own book and rather a pathetic one at that. Of course, Horowitz is having fun with his alter ego, but the man he is pitting himself against is so underwhelming we don’t really care about their rivalry.
The idea is the ex-policeman has been sacked from the police force for taking matters into his own hands. A handcuffed prisoner alone with Hawthorne, falls down a flight of stairs and is badly injured.
Why then does Scotland Yard have to call on Hawthorne in an unofficial capacity to solve fairly uninteresting crimes? And why does Hawthorne think it would be a good idea to have Horowitz accompany him on his investigation so he can write a book about it afterwards?
Horowitz somehow fails to make Hawthorne interesting in any way.
He was about forty years old with hair of an indeterminate colour that was cut very short around the ears and was just beginning to turn grey. He was clean-shaven. His skin was pale. I got the feeling he might have been very handsome as a child but something had happened to him at some time in his life so that, although he still wasn’t ugly, he was curiously unattractive.
There is a great deal of, ‘How did he know that?’ when the answers are all pretty obvious. And the few facts he can find out about the mysterious detective are also pretty uninteresting; he makes model aeroplanes, he is in a book club… But the least convincing story line is that somehow Horowitz becomes subject to Hawthorne. As he says
But in just a couple of weeks, everything had changed. I had allowed myself to become a silent partner, a minor character in my own book! Worse than that, I had somehow persuaded myself that I couldn’t work out a single clue without asking him what was going on.
One thing I did find out from reading these tales, is that Horowitz gets contracts to write three books in a series. In the near future we can expect the third book in his Sherlock Holmes series, the third book in the cosy series, and the third book in this detective Hawthorne series.
I wonder if it will with follow the pattern of these two books. The murders both involve revenge for actions done to the murderer in the past. And they both end with the Horowitz character getting stabbed by the murderer and with Hawthorne visiting him in hospital.
A likely story!
I think I’m done here.
But many others have enjoyed these books. They have high ratings on Goodreads.
Below you can read a review that tends to agree with me.