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by Anthony Horowitz
HarperCollins, November 2022
384 pages
ISBN: 0062938185

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Anthony Horowitz, novelist, screenwriter, and lover of Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie, is once again a character in his Hawthorne and Horowitz series. In the previous instalment, A LINE TO KILL, the fictionalized "Horowitz" got fed up with his catankerous subject, former detective and sometime criminal Hawthorne. He will not write about him again, Horowitz insists. Their three-book deal concluded, Hawthorne's Boswell owes him nothing. Until he, Horowitz, is accused of murdering a critic who panned his dreadful, Pinter-meets-mystery excuse for a West End play. Copious forensic evidence implicates Horowitz. Only Hawthorne can help him to find the real killer and exonerate himself.

Whether Hawthorne WILL help Horowitz is not the suspense question. If Hawthorne refuses, there's no story--as Horowitz reminds him. And the book THE TWIST OF A KNIFE exists, so there must be a story. Furthermore, while knives play a prominent role in this mystery, the title refers not to physical violence but to the moral violence done by bad criticism. Critic Harret Throsby sounds very much like Tom Stoppard's impression of Benedict Nightingale, whose bad review led to Stoppard immortalizing Nightingale as an awful literary critic of the same name in his play ARCADIA.

The result is a very Agatha Christie-esque plot, which coexists, just, with the book's setting: modern London. Throsby is a caricature, the uppity critic daring to trash plays they don't understand, and showing up to disorient the creatives to boot.

More interesting are the supporting players. The cast of the fictionalized Horowitz's folly includes one Jordan Williams, Native American celebrity actor, a survivor of the Carlisle Indian School adopted too young to recall its horrors, with a violent streak and a tendency to accuse poor put-upon Horowitz of cultural appropriation because Horowitz plans to write about him in a work of fiction. "I don't want to be in your book," Williams tells Horowitz, and then calls him "a privileged white writer describing things he knows nothing about, profiting--in every sense--from an experience he will never understand because he hasn't lived it," and concludes, "I have [lived it]!" Horowitz needles him "Are you saying I can't write about Ahmet because he's Turkish? Or Pranav because he comes from India.. .the whole point of stories is that they're for sharing... stories are what brings us together."

To some extent, Horowitz deliberately makes "Horowitz" look like a jerk and a formula writer, but this conversation lingers as the book continues. Still, like any classic Agatha Christie novel, THE TWIST OF A KNIFE is a puzzle, not a work of cultural theory, so the debate goes no further.

As for the mystery itself, it's well-paced and nicely structured, providing a Christie-style smorgasbord of suspects who all have reasons to want Thorsby dead. It's not quite unguessable, and it's easy to tell which major British news stories, remembered for years or decades as key to a Zeitgeist, inform the plot. There is a great deal of humor in Horowitz and Hawthorne's bickering, which is interspersed throughout the novel. It's one of the greater strengths of the series and should carry Horowitz and Hawthorne through to their next misadventure.

Rebecca Nesvet is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay and co-edits Reviewing the Evidence.

Reviewed by Rebecca Nesvet, October 2022

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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