BOOK NOOK: This complex crime novel is a puzzle lovers’ delight

Anthony Horowitz is one of the best selling, most versatile writers in the United Kingdom. He just published his fifth Hawthorne and Horowitz mystery, “Close to Death,” here in the United States. Are you familiar with his work?

So far Horowitz has written a couple of Sherlock Holmes novels, several James Bond novels, as well as the bestselling crime novels “”Magpie Murders” and “Moonflower Murders.” His YA Alex Rider series has sold over 19 million copies and has been adapted for television.

Have you watched “Midsomer Murders” or “Foyle’s War” on TV? Horowitz wrote for those programs. In his Hawthorne and Horowitz series he makes himself a part of the stories; when former detective Daniel Hawthorne gets called on by the police to solve baffling cases the fictional Horowitz tracks his progress through the pages of the books we are reading.

This latest one, “Close to Death,” is clearly an homage to the best selling crime fiction writer of all time, Dame Agatha Christie. It is also a classic locked room mystery. Most of the action and the killings take place in a posh part of London known as Richmond upon Thames in what had been a rather sedate gated community.

We meet the inhabitants of these houses through extended flashbacks to the past and murders that took place, then we have the fictional author in the present retracing the steps of Hawthorne and his sidekick Dudley as they investigated the murder of one of the neighbors who was found dead, shot with a crossbow.

The crossbow belonged to a neighbor who was also found dead, inside his locked garage. The police rapidly determine the obvious, the owner of the crossbow killed his neighbor then himself. The garage was locked from the inside, how could it be otherwise?

We meet the other residents of this enclave and start realizing this case is far more complicated and that is why the police reluctantly brought in Hawthorne and Dudley to try to determine what actually happened. Giles Kenworthy, the man who was shot with the crossbow, had recently bought a home there.

During interviews it becomes clear that Kenworthy and his family were universally reviled by the other residents of this community. For instance, the retired lawyer, a widower, had planted some special flowers to honor his late wife. The Kenworthy kids destroyed those plantings with their skateboards.

Mrs. Kenworthy was furious at a dog for leaving doggie deposits in her garden. That dog was the beloved companion of two elderly spinsters, former nuns. When that dog suddenly meets a terrible fate the Kenworthy’s become the most obvious suspects in that hound’s demise.

Everybody had some reason to dislike the Kenworthy’s. Did someone hate Giles enough to kill him? Very bad things happened. Agatha Christie fans will surely note elements of tribute to her in this tale. Then there’s that wicked locked room situation. Did that dentist kill himself? Or, was he murdered? Oh, what a devilishly clever novel we have here.

Vick Mickunas of Yellow Springs interviews authors every Saturday at 7 a.m. and on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. on WYSO-FM (91.3). For more information, visit Contact him at

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