Anthony Horowitz’s A Line to Kill is the latest book teaming a fictionalized version of the author with detective Daniel Hawthorne. On this occasion the two are invited to an event on the island Alderney, where even before the bodies start piling up a secret clearly hides. Hawthorne is called upon to assist the island’s small police force. He and Horowitz quickly find themselves deep in a mix of characters and murder.
Included in the other guests are a historian, a children’s author, a fake blind psychic and more. Each is depicted as less than a wonderful human being, although most are not treated as outright vile. The island’s locals include one Derek Abbott, an easily hated individual with a history of pedophilia related crimes and a past relating back to Daniel Hawthorne.
Hawthorne is not the most likeable of men. There is a great deal of dirty laundry aired relating to his past, and to the reason he left the police in this volume. Specifically, there is a strong possibility that the man committed a piece of brutality. As a result of that the fictionalized version of Horowitz finds Hawthorne an even more reprehensible individual. A reader who finds out what the man was accused of may not share in this appraisal. While police brutality is horrifying, attacking a man who comes across as worse than Jimmy Saville is not the way to make a character seem grey.
As with the other volumes in this series, Horowitz populated A Line to Kill with numerous interesting characters. While some slip fairly quickly in and out of the novel, the reader will not grow bored trying to determine the best suspects or likely solutions. Instead between the fictionalized version of Horowitz, Hawthorne, and the many other figures a reader should be entertained even before the first fatality.
A map of Alderney is included, and while not of supreme importance it is quite helpful. The overall layout of the town plays a noticeable role in the plot, particularly changes that might happen due to the theoretical addition of a power station. For that reason alone a map has a certain relevance, although it is nice otherwise to orient storytelling.
As is often the case, multiple possible motivations exist ranging from personal dislike to blackmail to a strange sense of civic pride. It is a useful mix, and anyone who has lived in a small comminity knows that dislikes can boil over in many ways to make the potential motivves entirely believable. It seems likely that the reader will make at least one wrong guess, yet will not feel cheated as the story develops.
Overall A Line to Kill is a nice read. Anyone who enjoyed the previous volumes will enjoy this one. While it would serve well to read the first couple of books in advance it seemed for character purposes, any concern about missing an arc would be minimal. For fans of character mysteries this is an easy recommendation, although one should be prepared to deal with an interesting and literal example of an author insert.