REVIEW: The Sentence is Death by Anthony Hawley (Daniel Hawthorne #2)

Series: Daniel Hawthorne

Book Number: 2

Read this book for: UK mystery, London mystery, whodunnit, author self-insert, amateur investigator, private investigator, contemporary mystery

Quick Review: Another brilliant, tightly plotted, page-turning instalment in a series with an interesting concept and a perfect blend of fiction and reality.

***

Richard Pryce is an elegant, smooth-tongued lawyer who has made a fortune out of celebrity divorces – and a lot of enemies in the process. Unmarried himself, he lives in a handsome bachelor pad on the edge of Hampstead Heath.

Or rather he used to …

When he is found murdered, the police confront the most baffling of mysteries: who was the visitor who came to Pryce’s house moments before he died, arriving while he was still talking on the phone?

“You shouldn’t be here. It’s too late…” were Pryce’s last recorded words but what exactly do they mean?

Why does his killer paint a three-digit number on the wall before leaving the crime scene? And why exactly was he bludgeoned to death with a bottle of wine – a 1982 Chateau Lafite worth £2,000 – when he didn’t drink alcohol?

The police are forced to hand the case to Private Investigator Daniel Hawthorne, who takes it on with characteristic relish.

But Hawthorne himself has secrets to hide and as our reluctant narrator becomes ever more embroiled in the case he realises that these are secrets that need to be exposed – even if it puts his own life in danger …

THE SENTENCE IS DEATH is the second of Anthony Horowitz’s reality-bending novel series that places himself as the Watson to secretive fictional detective Daniel Hawthorne. This instalment takes him into a series of suspicious deaths that may or may not be related in an attempt to solve the case before the animosity the police feel toward Hawthorne bleeds over into Horowitz’s life and career — and before his own life is on the line.

This is the second novel in the series (you can read the review for THE WORD IS MURDER here), and Horowitz seems more comfortable writing about himself as a character in this installment. As it carries on much of the character development from the first novel, you should really read THE WORD IS MURDER before picking this one up. It will also give you a sense of familiarity with the concept, and it’s a great read!

One of the most skillful things Horowitz manages in this novel is the blending of reality and fiction. It’s extremely difficult to guess which of the characters and many of the events actually exist in the real world, and which are products of his imagination. He includes vivid renderings of real places that further make you believe that the entire novel could plausibly have happened (a book blogger favourite in this installment is the use of Daunt Books as a setting!). The true-to-life feeling makes the fact that Horowitz himself is the narrator and one of the main characters sit much more comfortably than you would imagine it might.

Beyond that, Horowitz continues to showcase his abilities as a mystery writer. The plot of this novel is tight, interesting, and ever shifting — just when you think you have a solution figured out, something changes and another solution or possibility presents itself. It makes the novel almost impossible to put down.

And the vivid writing style will help you fly through the pages. Possibly a habit carried over from his screenwriting, Horowitz’s writing in this novel is quickly paced, sleek, and quite visceral. It also offers a fascinating glimpse into his world of writing, television, publishing and more.

THE SENTENCE IS DEATH is a wonderful addition to a series which I hope will continue for some time — there should be at least one more book if the story is to be believed! It’s an interesting concept which is worth checking out.

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