The second book in Horowitz’s series featuring taciturn and egotistical retired detective, Hawthorne, The Sentence is Death, is absurdly excellent.
The story opens with divorce lawyer Richard Pryce being brutally killed with a bottle of expensive wine and the numerals 182 being painted on the wall above the body. Called into aid the investigation being undertaken by an unpleasant and bullying female detective, Hawthorne insists Horowitz accompany him so he might add this murder to the books the author is writing about him. For that’s the marvellous premise of these clever, humorous and beautifully plotted books: Hawthorne has persuaded an unwilling (or at least, against his better judgement) Horowitz to write what will be essentially biographical novels about Hawthorne, featuring his skills as a detective and the cases he solves. As a consequence, the author is a character in his own novel, presenting himself as a rather bumbling Watson-style character to Hawthorne’s Sherlock, becoming a very appropriate foil for the detective’s undoubted and oft infuriating brilliance.
Suspects present themselves with alarming frequency in this case as not only Richard’s present and high-profile legal cases leave a trail of clues as to the culprit, but the past also proves fertile ground. Hawthorne and Horowitz have to pull out all stops and make, not only leaps of imagination but find facts to uncover the killer.
Self-deprecating, frustrated and torn between professional curiosity and fury at the way he’s treated by Hawthorne and other members of the constabulary, Horowitz waivers between regretting his decision to write about Hawthorne and wanting to quit. Fortunately, he persists. This case has him (and consequently, the reader) hooked. Laden with references to real writers, actors and thinly veiled swipes and praise for others, as well as his own family and work Horowitz genuinely undertakes (such as writing the television series, Foyle’s War), increases the frisson the novel already creates.
A clever, easy read that already has me
looking forward to the next installment.