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The Sentence Is Death


The Sentence Is Death

You breathe in my ear
Your every word a trial
The sentence is death

This haiku, which gives us the origin of the title for Anthony Horowitz’s new novel, was written by one of the murder suspects in THE SENTENCE IS DEATH.

Horowitz states in his bio that he may have committed more fictional murders than any other living author. He is the man behind the wonderful British series “Midsomer Murders” and the BAFTA-winning “Foyle's War.” He also has penned some terrific novels, including ones that feature two of the most iconic characters in all of spy/mystery fiction: James Bond and Sherlock Holmes. Young readers know him for his bestselling YA mystery series starring Alex Rider. However, the most ingenious and creative work he has done thus far are his books featuring Private Investigator Daniel Hawthorne, which have Anthony Horowitz himself as a central character.

"THE SENTENCE IS DEATH is another triumph for Anthony Horowitz, and it is easy to see how much fun he is having with it."

Horowitz is supposedly penning three novels starring Hawthorne in which the author comes off as the Watson to Hawthorne's Holmes. In this latest case, the pair are assisting the British police with the murder of a famous divorce attorney, Richard Pryce. The murder weapon appears to have been a bottle of wine, and "182" is scrawled on the wall near the corpse. Ironically, 182 is the number of the haiku by author Akira Anno, whose husband is using Pryce to defend his claims in a high-profile divorce.

Hawthorne storms onto the set of “Foyle's War,” ruining the scene by inserting his modern vehicle into the WWII setting. He introduces Horowitz to the rather gruff DI Cara Grunshaw of the Metropolitan Police. She privately threatens Horowitz to keep her involved in anything he and Hawthorne should uncover while asserting to him that this is her case. Hawthorne simply says what will minimally appease Grunshaw and then goes off and does his own thing. Horowitz reflects on how a good murder case drew Hawthorne's focus in to the exclusion of everything else around him. That could be good and bad for Horowitz, who often finds himself on the outside looking in, while Hawthorne works his mastery over the case.

The clues are confusing as Pryce obviously knew the intruder who took his life; his last words to the killer were “It's a bit late.” This is odd considering that the murder occurred around 8:00 on a Sunday evening. The case gets even more interesting when an old friend of Pryce, Gregory Taylor, is killed by a subway car when he either jumped or was pushed in front of it in London's Underground. Further inspection of the two cases links Pryce and Taylor to an event that took place decades earlier when the two were part of a trio involved in an adventure expedition in which the third man perished. Might that incident play into the two deaths, or is it just a coincidence? It will take Hawthorne at his finest to puzzle this one out, while Horowitz finds his head spinning with all the different directions this case takes.

THE SENTENCE IS DEATH is another triumph for Anthony Horowitz, and it is easy to see how much fun he is having with it. Placing himself in these books is a stroke of genius, and there is so much more he can do with this unique style of mystery/thriller. Since he is contracted to write three novels about Hawthorne, we can only hope to see them paired up for one more surreal ride.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on May 31, 2019

The Sentence Is Death
by Anthony Horowitz

  • Publication Date: May 26, 2020
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial
  • ISBN-10: 0062676849
  • ISBN-13: 9780062676849