Wednesday, 29 November 2017

From the writer of Double “O” Seven

A little while ago, Ayo Onatade, Muriel Karim and I enjoyed the hospitality of Cornerstone Publishing at their first Crime-Fiction Party. Of particular delight was an opportunity to meet and have a good chat with novelist and screenwriter Anthony Horowitz. We all know of Horowitz’ screen-work on Foyles War and Poirot as well as his Alex Rider novels – and his taking on the Ian Fleming mantle with the continuing adventures of James Bond 007, as he follows up Trigger Mortis.

I mentioned to this remarkable writer how much I enjoyed his after-dinner speech at the Crimefest 2017 Gala Dinner, and rarely had I laughed as much, which delighted Anthony Horowitz. I also told him how delighted I was seeing Felix Francis having a laugh too.

Since then I have reviewed his last two works, and found them remarkable – a real insight / reworking of what we term the British Golden Age Murder Mystery, with a nod to Dame Agatha Christie.

As a reader / reviewer who is always seeking ‘something new’, ‘something different’ – I would urge you to explore these two delightful and insightful novels of Murder, and of Mystery. I found the Audio versions from Audible to be excellent, with Actors Roy Kinnear, Allan Corduner & Samantha Bond bringing these elegant novels to life.

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz [Paperback]

Horowitz’s love of the British Golden Age mystery is evident in this intricate homage to Dame Agatha Christie. Reviewers are often on the hunt for something new, something fresh; and “Magpie Murders” is just that - a most unusual take on the British Golden Age Mystery Novel.

The literary device utilised by Horowitz takes the shape of a “novel within a novel” as well as a reflection on British Crime Fiction Publishing, as there are some characters named after real-life figures, such as Angela McMahon [Horowitz’ own Publicity Manager] among others.

When literary Editor Susan Ryeland introduces bestselling author Alan Conway’s ninth novel about Greek / German detective Atticus Pünd, “Magpie Murders” - she indicates this novel changed her life. The novel opens with the funeral of Mary Elizabeth Blakiston, housekeeper to Sir Magnus Pye. It appears she tripped over a Vacuum cleaner cable and tumbled to her death down the staircase. It seems that Blakiston’s death was an accident; until the decapitated body of Sir Magnus Pye is discovered. This leads to Conway’s post-war sleuth Atticus Pünd and his assistant to head to Somerset from his London lodgings to investigate [assisting the local police]. It appears that Pünd is facing a terminal condition of his own, so it could be his last case, and one that features more Red Herrings than a Coastal Fishing Vessel.

However the genius of this novel is that Alan Conway’s murder mystery “Magpie Murders” appears populated by characters who are disguised versions of real-life people. The first problem is that Ryeland discovers that Conway appears to have committed suicide, but that perhaps his death is actually murder – and the clues as to the perpetrator lie within “Magpie Murders”. The second problem is that the final chapters of the manuscript of “Magpie Murders” are missing.

A most unusual Murder Mystery, and one that makes the reader work hard for the entertainment and insight torn from the devious mind of Anthony Horowitz.
In two words, “Magpie Murders” is “Bloody Good”.

The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz [Hardcover]

Following from the genius of “Magpie Murders” comes another murder mystery from the fevered imagination of Anthony Horowitz. Again, we have something fresh, something unusual and something very weird.

Horowitz casts himself as a character in this ingenious narrative - as a writer recording a murder investigation lead by a very odd consultant, the former Detective Daniel Hawthorne. The plan being that a true-crime narrative penned by Horowitz, entitled “Hawthorne Investigates” being the outcome.

Diana Cooper a sixty-year old widower is found murdered by strangulation, only hours after she arranged her own funeral arrangements. The London Police call upon Hawthorne to investigate, and he in turn calls upon Anthony Horowitz to record the investigation for the upcoming book “Hawthorne Investigates”. The trail is most curious, with strands reaching to Hollywood, as well as a seaside resort in Kent [England]. There is tragedy, there is grief as well as much curious machinations of the protagonists as Horowitz [like a stage magician] slowly reveals that the truth is submerged beneath a murky past, where past deeds and the dark edges of human nature converge.

There are many suspects in the murder of Diana Cooper, and the case is further complicated when another murder occurs, and one that is related to a tragedy that was far more convoluted than the police concluded. Though somewhat “weird” in terms of narrative structure, but “weird” in a good way, as Horowitz weaves real-life people into his story, including Publisher Selina Walker, among many others. We also get an insight into Horowitz’s own writing life, with his homages to Christie, Conan Doyle and Ian Fleming as well as his TV writing such as Poirot and Foyle’s War – as well as a nod to his Alex Rider novels. These insights prove fascinating for readers and writers of the British Murder Mystery.

Horowitz reveals his love of the crime / mystery genre as he probes the lives, the loves and the tragedy of his characters with their hidden motivations for murder. It reminded this reader of his After-Dinner speech at this year’s Crimefest convention.

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