cover image Close to Death

Close to Death

Anthony Horowitz. Harper, $30 (384p) ISBN 978-0-06-330564-9

In the intriguing if uneven fifth installment of Horowitz’s Hawthorne and Horowitz series (after The Twist of a Knife), the author again blends mystery and metafiction to examine a murder in an exclusive London cul-de-sac. After the obnoxious Giles Kenworthy is slain with a crossbow in his home among the ritzy mansions of Riverview Close, police detective Daniel Hawthorne and his sidekick, John Dudley, jump on the case. At first, owing to Kenworthy’s lack of popularity among his neighbors, Hawthorne and Dudley float the idea that it was a collaborative killing in the tradition of Murder on the Orient Express. Then one of their key suspects dies in an apparent suicide, and the case shifts into locked-room mystery territory, with a single killer likely picking off Riverview Close peers one by one. Horowitz again inserts himself in the narrative, working with Hawthorne to turn the case into a proper novel, but he writes much of this volume in third person, turning to his own voice only occasionally to comment on genre conventions or tease the mystery’s conclusion. The result is a narrative of frames within frames that gradually loses entertainment value as a fair play mystery and ultimately slips into something far more jumbled. There’s plenty of ambition on display, but this isn’t up to series standards. Agent: Jonathan Lloyd, Curtis Brown. (Apr.)