In Anthony Horowitz’s previous novel, “The Word Is Murder,” readers were introduced to a character named Anthony Horowitz.
The fictional Anthony Horowitz shares the British writer’s background as a screenwriter and novelist who has written the Alex Rider mystery series for children, several British TV mystery series, including “Foyle’s War” (a favorite of mine), and two James Bond continuation novels and two Sherlock Holmes continuation novels.
In “The Word Is Murder” the fictional Anthony Horowitz acted as a modern-day Watson to a modern-day Holmes, a former Scotland Yard detective-turned private detective named Daniel Hawthorne, a brilliant, unconventional and immensely unlikable investigator.
Like Doctor John Watson, who was Sherlock Holmes’ assistant and biographer, fictional Anthony Horowitz became a somewhat reluctant chronicler and assistant to Daniel Hawthorne when he agreed to write a biography of the detective.
In “The Sentence Is Death,” Mr. Horowitz once again follows the detective as he investigates another unusual murder in London.
The novel opens with Anthony Horowitz on the set of “Foyle’s War” as the TV mystery series is filming on a London Street. This season of the program was set in 1947 and Mr. Horowitz explains to the readers the difficulties of filming a period piece on the streets of London.
“Shooting in London is always a horrible business, prohibitively expensive and fraught with difficulties. It often seems that the entire city is deliberately doing everything in its power to stop the cameras turning. Planes will fly overhead. Pneumatic drills and car alarms will burst into angry life. Police cars and ambulances will race past with their sirens blaring,” writes Mr. Horowitz.
Despite these difficulties, the TV crew was filming when a 21st century taxi rolled onto the set with a Justin Timberlake song blasting from the vehicle. Cut!
A man stepped out of the taxi, seemingly unconcerned by the crowd of people around him, many of whom where in period dress.
“He had a sort of cheerful self-confidence that was actually quite cold-blooded, utterly focused on his own needs at the expense of everyone else’s. He was not tall or well built but he gave the impression that, by whatever means necessary, he would never lose a fight. His hair, somewhere between brown and gray, was cut very short, particularly around the ears. His eyes, a darker brown, gazed innocently out of a pale, slightly unhealthy face. This was not someone who spent a lot of time in the sun,” Mr. Horowitz writes. “He was dressed in a dark suit, a white shirt and a narrow tie, clothes that might have been deliberately chosen to say nothing about him. His shoes were brightly polished. As he moved forward, he was already searching for me and I had to ask myself — how had he even known I was here?”
The man called out to Anthony Horowitz and the director asked the writer if he knew the man.
“Yes, I admitted. His name is Daniel Hawthorne, He’s a detective.”
The narrator explained that he met former Detective Inspector Daniel Hawthorne when the detective was hired as a consultant for a television series he was writing. Daniel Hawthorne had once worked for Scotland Yard, but he was let go when a suspect in a child pornography case fell down a flight of concrete stairs. The detective had been standing behind the suspect at the time.
He turned to working for television and film companies that made crime dramas. But the narrator soon discovered, the police had not quite finished with the former detective. The writer learned that when the police had what was called a “sticker” — a complicated and difficult case — they called Daniel Hawthorne back.
After his work on the writer’s TV series, the detective asked the writer if he would be interested in writing a book about him, splitting the profits 50-50.
“I knew from the start that it was a bad idea. I make up stories; I prefer not to follow them around town. More to the point, I like to be in control of my books,” the narrator explained. “I had no wish to turn myself into a character, and a secondary one at that: the perennial sidekick.”
The writer again follows the detective as he investigates the murder of a powerful celebrity divorce lawyer who was killed by being bludgeoned with an expense bottle of wine. One suspect is a poet and novelist whose husband the lawyer represented in a nasty divorce case. The case is later complicated when the detective learns that years before the lawyer’s friend had died while exploring a cave with the lawyer and another man.
“The Sentence Is Death” is a clever and well-written crime story that mystery fans will enjoy.
• Paul Davis covers crime, espionage and terrorism.
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THE SENTENCE IS DEATH
By Anthony Horowitz
HarperCollins, $27.99, 384 pages