Book Review

A Line to Kill by Anthony Horowitz

‘I couldn’t see the sea from my bedroom but I could hear the waves breaking in the distance. They reminded me that I was on a tiny island. And I was trapped.’

There has never been a murder on Alderney.

It’s a tiny island, just three miles long and a mile and a half wide. The perfect location for a brand-new literary festival. Private Investigator Daniel Hawthorne has been invited to talk about his new book. The writer, Anthony Horowitz, travels with him.

Very soon they discover that all is not as it should be. Alderney is in turmoil over a planned power line that will cut through it, desecrating a war cemetery and turning neighbour against neighbour.

The visiting authors – including a blind medium, a French performance poet and a celebrity chef – seem to be harbouring any number of unpleasant secrets.

When the festival’s wealthy sponsor is found brutally killed, Alderney goes into lockdown and Hawthorne knows that he doesn’t have to look too far for suspects.

There’s no escape. The killer is still on the island. And there’s about to be a second death…

I’m a huge fan of this series, which began with The Word is Murder and continued with The Sentence is Death.  While each novel is a standalone mystery, I really do think that the reader benefits from reading the series from the beginning.  It helps to understand the relationship between Hawthorne and Horowitz and there are references to previous events in this novel.  Plus, each one is a fantastic mystery that I think I have figured out only to be proven wrong every single time. 

This instalment sees former detective turned private investigator and police consultant Daniel Hawthorne travel to Alderney with the long suffering “Tony” for a literary festival.  Seeing an opportunity to promote his novels featuring Hawthorne’s investigations, Horowitz is eager to attend and persuades Hawthorne to take part.  Despite his supposed reluctance, Hawthorne once again steals the limelight – having a former detective at a literary festival is bound to attract attention and his presence proves to be an excellent opportunity to quiz him about his methods and experiences.  I couldn’t help but feel for Horowitz who – finally being given the opportunity to bring Hawthorne into his own world and area of expertise is once again overshadowed by his companion.

You might think that a literary festival would be a relatively straightforward affair, but the situation takes on a darker tone with the death of Charles le Mesurier – a sponsor of the festival and largely unpleasant individual.  With plenty of suspects, Hawthorne’s presence proves invaluable, and might just give Horowitz the material for another novel.  As the duo investigate it becomes clear that this is a sensitive situation with more than the festival at stake, and what develops is a fantastic mystery with all the clues and red herrings that you could wish for.  Readers should very much enjoy trying to work out whodunnit alongside Hawthorne and Horowitz – I know I did!

While I love this series – and I do love it – I don’t actually like Hawthorne that much.  He’s a difficult character – mercurial and enigmatic and he does treat Horowitz quite poorly at times.  That said, he is undeniably brilliant.  He’s a detective who is cut from the same cloth as the greats of the genre and fits in with likes of Holmes, Poirot etc.  And I do think that his sometimes difficult character is deliberate and in keeping in tradition with many of the great detectives who do often come across as being brilliant yet flawed.   

Of course, no fictional detective would be anything without a long-suffering sidekick, and in this series that role is filled by none other than Anthony Horowitz himself.  Horowitz is a much more sympathetic character for me – I hate seeing Hawthorne look down on him, particularly as he is only trying to help while taking notes for the novels that he will write based on those investigations.  He also comes across as quite a humble character (including himself in his own novel is certainly no ego trip!) and one that the reader can relate to more than the somewhat aloof detective.

A Line to Kill will be published on 19 August by Century in hardback, eBook, and audio formats.  Huge thanks to Anna Gibson for the opportunity to read and review ahead of publication.

Disclaimer – I received a copy of this novel from the publisher.  This has in no way influenced my review.

The Detective Daniel Hawthorne series:

  1. The Word is Murder
  2. The Sentence is Death
  3. A Line to Kill

The Magpie Murders series:

  1. Magpie Murders
  2. Moonflower Murders
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