It’s June and that means it’s now officially summer in Delhi and I thought maybe it’s a good time to shred the seriousness and have some fun with a few summer reads instead. At least that’ll be my intent in the rest of the columns this month.
Starting with A Line to Kill, which is a part of the Detective Daniel Hawthorne series and the third outing for a rather unlikely pair of investigators – an ex-detective Daniel Hawthorne and an English novelist who’s essentially a fictionalised-version of Anthony Horowitz himself. It’s just the kind of irreverent several-suspects-stuck-on-an-island-with-a-murderer-on-the-loose suspense thriller that makes you cancel all weekend plans and cuddle up on a couch with a copy.
The setup is that of a classic whodunit. Hawthorne and his associate-cum-chronicler Horowitz are invited to a literature festival on the Channel Island of Alderney. The other guests on the list include celebrity chef Marc Bellamy, blind psychic Elizabeth Lovell, war historian and birdwatcher George Elkin, children’s author and philanthropist Anne Cleary, and French performance poet Maïssa Lamar. Charles le Mesurier who owns an online gambling company is sponsoring the festival.
But before any of them have acclimatised themselves to the idyllic setting, you guessed it right – someone is taped to a chair, brutally tortured, and stabbed to death. And it’s up to Hawthorne now to find the killer among them before the body count starts to rise.
The mood is tense, but Horowitz is such an assured storyteller that he never allows it to veer towards morbid. In one scene, Hawthorne sits down next to a character after a somewhat significant revelation and says, “I mean, the idea of going undercover with a bunch of second-class writers at a festival nobody’s ever heard of sounds pretty lunatic to me – but then I suppose you are French...”
The novel is sprinkled with such clever quips throughout. You get your sharp-tongued, reclusive detective with a murky past in Hawthorne, but Horowitz doesn’t turn him into a brooding, alcoholic cliché. Instead, he gives Hawthorne most of the fun lines, especially during his banter with the narrator who’s our quintessential Watson-like assistant.
Savour it both for its comic moments as a satire on the publishing industries around the world, as well as a quintessential locked-room mystery filled with intelligent misdirections. The devil is in the detail that when a murder is committed, sometimes there are more than just one victim.