Note: This review is by my husband Jim.
In this self-referential novel, the author plays himself: that is, the real author is a character in the book. Moreover, he shamelessly refers to a number of his previous actual successful publications.
In the opening pages, author Anthony Horowitz, a crime writer of some renown [a fact in reality as well as in the book], is musing about composing a new Sherlock Holmes novel to be written in the style of Arthur Conan Doyle. Before he gets deeply into the new project, however, he is approached by an unusual character, Daniel Hawthorne, a former policeman now working with as a technical adviser for television and movies. Hawthorne relates to him the curious details of a recent murder. Hawthorne is short of cash and wants Horowitz to write a book about solving the murder, starring (of course) Hawthorne.
For reasons not immediately disclosed, Hawthorne was discharged from the police force, but his analytical skills are so well respected that the head of the force often hires him to “assist” the regular detectives in getting to the bottom of difficult cases. Yes, Hawthorne is sure to remind the reader of Sherlock Holmes, at least in his capabilities, though not his other personal characteristics.
It seems that one spring morning Diana Cowper, a moderately prominent, late middle-aged socialite and mother of a famous actor, visited a funeral parlor [“parlour” in the book; after all, the story takes place in England] and arranged all the details of her own funeral, only to be murdered that very evening. Hmmm. Very suspicious.
As you might imagine, that was no coincidence. Hawthorne sets out to find the killer with author Horowitz in tow. Horowitz interjects his own musings throughout the investigation, but just as his assessment of himself as an author is overblown, so is his opinion of himself as a crime solver. The actual resolution came as surprise to me, and no doubt will to most readers, because the clues (which Hawthorne discloses after the murderer is caught) are very obscure.
Evaluation: This is a relatively entertaining murder mystery, with some nice interplay between the author playing Dr. Watson, and Hawthorne, who represents Holmes. But the mix of reality and fiction is confusing and feels manipulative. If Horowitz had stuck to his crime story instead of inserting self-aggrandizing snippets from his real life, it might have been better.
Published in the U.S. by HarperCollins Publishers, 2018