The Word of Murder, Anthony Horowitz's latest bestseller, is to my mind even more fascinating than Magpie Murders, his take on the Golden Age detective story. In this book, set just a few years ago, he introduces a new character in the tradition of the Great Detective, a former cop called Daniel Hawthorne. And Hawthorne has his very own Watson figure to admire and record for posterity the brilliance of his deductions - and this happens to be none other than Horowitz himself.
It's a bold step, to introduce oneself as a major character in a novel of one's own, and I can't imagine that I'd ever attempt it. At first, I thought that I wasn't going to like the device. But to my surprise and pleasure, Horowitz proved once again that he is such a smooth and appealing storyteller that he can get away with murder (and no, that's not a plot spoiler!)
The opening premise is terrific. A woman called Diana Cowper goes into a funeral parlour, and arranges her own funeral. Six hours later, she is dead, strangled in her own home The police call in Hawthorne as a consultant, and he in turn persuades Horowitz to write up the story. The results I found fascinating - not least Horowitz's musings on the narrowness of public debate in modern society.
This is a fair play mystery, with a clever red herring which I dutifully swallowed. Yes, Horowitz outsmarted me. And I'm glad. I always found with Agatha Christie that my favourites among her books were those when I was led up the garden path, as I was here. There are twists a-plenty, and although one element of the plot didn't strike me as totally convincing, I was more than willing to suspend disbelief throughout. Great fun.