Thursday 11 April 2024


Book review: Close to Death by Anthony Horowitz (Hawthorne Investigates #5)

I cannot get enough of Anthony Horowitz' brilliant crime novels. I already loved his young adult books, like Alex Rider and The Power of Five, growing up – but his murder mysteries from recent years really surpass my expectations time and time again. And the Hawthorne Investigates series – in which he places a fictionalised version of himself alongside private detective Daniel Hawthorne as an unlikely investigative duo – really is Sherlock Holmes for the 21st century  

About Close to Death by Anthony Horowitz

There are only so many murders that can take place in the present day to inform a new instalment in the series of novels that Anthony Horowitz is writing about private investigator Daniel Hawthorne. So, after placing himself at the heart of the mysteries in previous books (especially the last one, The Twist of a Knife, in which Horowitz himself was the prime suspect in a murder investigation), this time around the author takes the detective on a trip down memory lane by making him recount an old case that could make for a thrilling page-turner. 

But while Horowitz thought it was difficult to work with Hawthorne when he was following the detective, quite literary, in his footsteps, he soon realises it's even worse when he's not actually a part of the action and Hawthorne only shares information with him in small chunks. It makes it impossible to see the bigger picture – and set up the clues and red herrings that will make for a brilliant whodunnit; not to mention it's making him feel even more inadequate as he has no idea what's actually going on... 

My review

Close to Death is quite different from the previous Hawthorne Investigates books and not just because this time around it is mainly set in the past, meaning the first few chapters are written from the third-person perspective and it takes nearly 70 pages for Horowitz and Hawthorne to even make an appearance. It's also the first time (that I remember) the series takes on the classic locked-room concept (well, locked Close in this case), which is always an intriguing premise for a murder mystery – and Horowitz has a lot of fun with it in this book to keep both his fictional alter ego and the readers on the tips of their toes. 

In addition to the main whodunnit, each book lifts the curtain also just a little more on Hawthorne's background and none more so than Close to Death. With Horowitz not being an active part of the murder investigation this time, his curiosity – and the detecting skills he's picked up over the course of the last few years – sees him go even deeper into the secrets of River Court, where Hawthorne lives, and meeting up with several people from Hawthorne's life to interrogate them. Horowitz is slowly closing in and I wouldn't be surprised if we get an explosive revelation in the next book...

What also makes this series so utterly brilliant (aside from the fact that the murder mystery is incredibly well put together so even people who have devoured dozens of whodunnits already are in for a surprise) is the fact that Anthony Horowitz doesn't shy away from making himself look completely daft amidst an investigation. This makes the reader feel really chuffed with themselves if they figure out a clue before he does. Of course the Horowitz within the pages of the book is mostly fictional, but with the clever insertion of real people and events, it's easy to forget that none of this is real and Horowitz (probably) isn't quite so bumbling. 

And, in addition to taking the mickey out of himself with Hawthorne's quips about "Tony's" inadequate work, there's also generous dose of references to the golden age of crime that will appeal to lovers of the murder mystery genre. I'm sure I'm not the only one who desperately wants The Tea Cosy that was introduced in this novel – a bookshop specialising in detective fiction – to be a real place so I can pick up a tea towel with the slogan "Stolen from Bertram's Hotel" too. 

Close to Death is a fantastic contemporary homage to the golden age of crime. It's both ingenious in its plot and whodunnit, while at the same time cleverly calling out traditional characteristics and tropes within the genre, and taking them in unexpected directions. Add to that the generous dose of humour that Anthony Horowitz has masterfully sprinkled throughout so the story cannot be taken too seriously and you've got yourself one brilliantly gripping and entertaining read. 

Close to Death by Anthony Horowitz is published today by Century (an imprint of Penguin Random House) today and you can now buy your copy from your favourite local book shop!

Disclaimer: This book was gifted to me, but this has not impacted this honest review.

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