Anthony Horowitz: The Twist of a Knife

Anthony Horowitz, one of the finest practitioners of the traditional detective novel, brings us a new installment in his series where Anthony Horowitz himself is the detective.  Or rather, he’s the writer who solves crimes with an actual detective named Hawthorne, and then writes books about their investigations.  It’s a very meta concept and it only took me a minute to adjust to it.  In this alternate world where Horowitz the author is Horowitz the character, he’s written a play.

The play is being produced, starting out in smaller cities and at last – moving to London.  As the book opens, Anthony has told Hawthorne he doesn’t plan to write any more books; and he’s very much looking forward to opening night of his play.  It’s a small cast and all of them head out to celebrate afterwards at a party thrown by the producer, and the cast and Anthony end up back at the theater’s green room waiting on reviews.  One comes in early, and it’s a nasty one.  The cast trickles out, in shock. read more

Sophie Hannah: The Killings at Kingfisher Hill

Golden age detectives are the perfect characters to provide a continuation of a series.  Nero Wolfe, Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot – all have such well established character traits, and yet do not especially develop or change  – that they can be taken by another writer and made fresh.  Sophie Hannah is obviously familiar with Poirot and obviously loves him, as every reader does, despite his quirks.

Hannah also manages the feat of showing, not telling, Poirot’s cleverness and intelligence as he unravels a tricky case.  Like the great queen of crime herself, Hannah’s unraveling is only tricky from a certain angle, from another (Poirot’s) it’s more straightforward.  The telling is all in the angles.  This is a feat of sheer storytelling power. read more

Alex Pavesi: The Eighth Detective

While Alex Pavesi’s concept in The Eighth Detective isn’t entirely new, it’s still entirely welcome and ingenious.  John Dickson Carr, in his novel The Three Coffins (1935), presented a locked room mystery while at the same time breaking away to analyze and discuss the mechanics of detective fiction to his readers.  Carr’s hero, Dr. Gideon Fell, takes on the job of explaining the different plot variations.  Pavesi has taken it a step further even than the ingenious Carr, however.

Pavesi’s central character in the novel, Grant McCallister, lives a hermit’s life on a remote island.  Twenty years ago, he’d written a book called The White Murders, published in the early 1940’s.  The book in our hands is a series of short murder mystery stories, interspersed with McCallister’s mathematical analysis of the murder mystery. There are a certain number of required elements and within this structure – and, as mystery readers everywhere already know – there are endless variations. read more