Book 3 in the “Hawthorne and Horowitz Investigate” series
To promote the first book in the series, The Word is Murder, the author and former detective Hawthorne are invited to a literary festival on a small English island. As tends to happen, they’re pulled into a murder investigation, in which the other writers and the island’s close-knit community are all prime suspects.
- Horowitz has proven himself to be a master craftsman when it comes to old-fashioned murder mysteries, and this one might be the most accessible and satisfying of his that I’ve read so far.
- The meta-gimmick of this series — in which Horowitz casts himself as Watson to a fictional detective Holmes — isn’t as overpowering and distracting as in the previous books, being used instead to establish the premise and then mostly fade to the background.
- None of the clues are artificially obscured or dropped onto the reader at the last minute, there’s a satisfying sense that observant readers had everything they needed to solve the mystery.
- Breaks free of the template of the first book, which had already started to wear thin in the second: there’s no need to artificially introduce an action-packed climax into every detective story.
- I was able to guess the identity of the murderer, but it was neither too obscured nor too obvious, and I felt like if I’d been reading more slowly and carefully, I would’ve been able to piece together the relevance of all the clues.
- Very cleverly uses the format, and the idea that Horowitz is thinking in terms of writing a murder mystery as the mystery is playing out, as a way to sum up information and throw in red herrings.
- Hawthorne is still an abrasive and unlikable character by design, but I still haven’t reached the point where he’s more fascinating than just plain annoying.
- Horowitz’s self-deprecating comments are still in full effect here, as he casts himself as the eternally disrespected and under-appreciated second fiddle to a brilliant detective. The charm is wearing a little thin. It invariably comes across either as a humblebrag, or as someone who’s not hapless so much as spineless.
- I welcomed the fact that the metatextual gimmickry was played down in this book, but it did have the side effect of making it seem more like a traditional murder mystery without the novelty in The Word is Murder.
Another satisfying, old-fashioned murder mystery that’s a lot of fun to read. It does feel less experimental and innovative than the first two books in the series, but avoids feeling like a repetitive formula while still using its clever premise to its advantage.