A Line to Kill is the third Hawthorne and Horowitz mystery and will be published on 19th August. I read it thanks to NetGalley. The previous titles were The Word is Murder and The Sentence is Death. I read these in the wrong order, unfortunately. The unusual twist to these books is that Horowitz writes as himself, including real people, places and events, while Hawthorne, the mysterious private investigator who keeps turning up, is a fictional character. Some people see this as egocentric writing by Horowitz but I find it original and have now enjoyed all three books.
In A Line to Kill, Horowitz is invited to a little-known literary festival on Alderney, sponsored by an online gambling company called Spinthewheel. He is miffed to find that both his publishers and the festival organisers seem more interested in Hawthorne. The festival is much like others, only smaller. While it’s going on, the island’s richest and most detested man is murdered rather horribly; the first murder ever on Alderney. As the local police are not used to serious crime, they ask Hawthorne to investigate before reinforcements arrive. Where to start? The island is full of people glad to see the victim dead. And then there’s a second murder … Just to complicate matters, Hawthorne’s nemesis, Derek Abbott, is on the island. Years before, he had been seriously injured while in custody, and accused Hawthorne of pushing him downstairs. Hawthorne always said it was an accident but he was forced out of his job. He’s such an enigmatic character that we may never know the truth of the matter.
The case seems nicely wrapped up and everyone has been allowed to leave the island when Hawthorne comes up with a bombshell, different solution. I think that’s the reason I found this book slightly less good than the other two in the series: too much of an Agatha Christie-style surprise.
I like all Ben MacIntyre’s books and admire his industry. Agent Sonya I couldn’t enjoy quite as much as the others because a fanatical communist has no appeal for me. How could she continue to support the Party once Stalin’s crimes became well known?
The Swallows’ Flight by Hilary McKay I’ve already reviewed.
I’ve found Elizabeth Cadell’s books very variable: good and not so good. The Yellow Brick Road (1959) is about the mystery of why Jodi was found unconscious at the foot of some stairs where she had no reason to be. She can’t remember anything and is encouraged to forget all about it but she can’t. The mystery is eventually solved but I found too many things left unexplained by the end of the story.
Disappointment of the month was Richard Coles’ The Madness of Grief. I have to say that once I started the book I could hardly stop reading because it’s well written. I’ve always found Richard Coles both witty and wise (and I enjoyed Bringing in the Sheaves). I suppose I was expecting a book which might help other people suffering from bereavement and found instead a self-indulgent howl. No gory (literally) details of his partner’s death were omitted. I wonder why people feel the need to share this sort of thing? Far be it from me to question another’s grief but I can’t help thinking that bereavement is easier to cope with if, like Coles, you have plenty of money, a large family and a huge support network of friends. Perhaps it was discovering that he is chums with Earl Spencer which finished me off. The sad thing is that by the end of the book, I liked the author less than I had before.
A book I can thoroughly recommend is The Windsor Knot, by S J Bennett (a woman writer). At Windsor Castle, which you might think one of the safest places in the world, a young Russian who had played the piano for a party is found dead. No one wants to tell the Queen exactly how he died but she’s no fool and finds out first, that his death was curiously unpleasant and then that it was murder. She liked the attractive young man and is upset that such a thing should take place in her favourite residence. Why did he die? Was Putin behind the death? With the help of her assistant, the very likeable and multi-talented Rozie Oshodi, the Queen solves the mystery, allowing others to take all the credit for it. This is a very enjoyable book and surprisingly believable; the Queen, Prince Philip and the courtiers just the way you imagine they could be. I bought this when it was on one of those limited period Kindle deals. Unfortunately, the 99p deal has disappeared and worse, the original cover has been changed for a less appropriate one. Amazon is already suggesting that I pre-order the next book in the series: A Three Dog Problem.