The Twist of a Knife is the fourth in Anthony Horowitz’s series placing himself into his mysteries playing a version of himself. The plot: Horowitz is on the tail end of a contract he signed to write books about the ex-detective Daniel Hawthorne. He’s tired of shadowing the annoying detective and with his new play, a thriller called Mindgame, about to open in London’s West End, he’s ready to move on. Unfortunately, fate has other plans for Horowitz. Not only does his play bomb, but the critic who wrote the most scathing review, Harriet Throsby of the influential Sunday Times, is found dead and Horowitz becomes the prime suspect. To save his reputation and his life, Horowitz must depend on Hawthorne to discover the real killer.
The fictional Horowitz’s inspiration for Mindgame was another murder/mystery play, Sleuth, written by Anthony Shaffer. (Sleuth was made into two films, a 1972 version starring Michael Caine and Laurence Olivier, and a 2007 thriller directed by Kenneth Branagh and starring, Jude Law and, once again, Michael Caine.)
Anthony Horowitz (Photo Credit: Anna Lythgoe)
While Sleuth has only two characters, Mindgame has a larger cast and those involved in the play make up the suspects in Throsby’s murder. They include an eclectic group of theater professionals. Ewan Lloyd, the director, who dresses like Oscar Wilde, but is not gay, was once married and has four children. Horowitz learns that a play Ewan directed, Saint Joan, went up, literally, in flames, with a scene that purported to show how the young woman would be burned at the stake. Not only did the theater burn down, but the actress playing Joan suffered serious injuries that ended her career.
Then there’s Jordan Williams, a Native American who plays Mindgame’s Dr. Farquhar, director of an institute that houses dangerous killers. Rehearsing a scene, Williams gets violent and injures Sky Palmer, the actress playing Nurse Plimpton. After Throsby is murdered, Williams quickly rises to the top of the killer list. Palmer is an enigma. Her clothes look like they have come from a thrift shop, whereas she wears a Cartier watch and Jimmy Choo heels. Horowitz believes Palmer is hiding something. But would that make her a killer?
Finally there’s Tirian Kirke who plays Mark Styler, the young reporter who comes to interview Dr. Farquhar and gets trapped inside the insane asylum. Horowitz is concerned when he learns Kirke will play Styler. Years ago, Horowitz had written a series for ITV called Injustice and Kirke, who had been cast in the role of a young offender who takes his own life, dropped out at the last minute, costing the production time and money. Would he repeat that behavior and cause problems for Mindgame?
No one associated with the production is fond of Harriet Throsby. The critic is not shy about torturing theater professionals with her power. Horowitz is concerned when she turns up at Mindgame’s after party, along with her daughter, Olivia, making sly remarks about his Alex Rider series written for children. Horowitz can’t help himself from asking Harriet if she liked his play. “Harriet ignored me,” he says. “It was as if I hadn’t spoken.”
After the party, the cast and crew go backstage to have drinks and talk further. That’s when Horowitz is presented with a gift from the producer, Ahmet Yurdakul. The ornamental dagger will turn out to be the murder weapon and since Horowitz handles it, his fingerprints are on it making him the prime suspect. And Horowitz certainly has a motive since Harriet trashed his play with this line: “My advice to Mr. Horowitz would be to stick to children’s books, where, perhaps, he will find a less discerning audience and one that will put up with his somewhat juvenile ideas.”
Horowitz and Hawthorne have to stay one step ahead of the police. And while Horowitz’s patience with Hawthorne is razor thin, the detective still has what it takes to solve a crime.
The Twist of the Knife does have twists and turns and is totally enjoyable. Anyone just discovering this Horowitz series with this fourth mystery will want to go back, read the earlier ones and wait for number five.
The Twist of the Knife
Top photo: Bigstock