I have a slight confession to make. Despite being an absolute murder mystery fanatic, I discovered Anthony Horowitz, what I would consider to be a bit late in the game.

I’m not even sure how Horowitz passed me by, but once I picked up ‘The Word Is Murder’ with Detective Hawthorne, I was hooked.

I have to admit that it did take me a few minutes to get the lay of the land, after all it’s not often that the author, a real life person, is also a character in their own books.

Given that so many of the facts about Anthony Horowitz in the book are true, and yet Detective Hawthorne and the murder mystery are complete fiction, it can leave you momentarily scratching your head as to what is going on.

Then the penny drops, and you’re off to the races or, in this case, off to Diana Cowper’s house, a woman who was murdered six hours after arranging her own funeral.

So rather than delve into the nitty gritty of each book below, because I’m a ‘no spoilers’ gal, I’ll give you a brief overview of each and how they all interlink with one another.

1. The Word Is Murder

This is our introduction to Detective Daniel Hawthorne, who used to work for the Metropolitan police.

No longer in active service, which gets explored a little more in book three, Hawthorne is now a private detective.

Out of the blue, he contacts Anthony Horowitz and suggests that Horowitz follow him on his next case and then write a book about it.

Now, clearly, this is a very unusual situation and not one that Horowitz is keen to embark on, that is, until he hears about the case.

Diane Cowper is a very normal woman who one day, for no seemingly good reason, arranges her own funeral, only to be murdered six hours later.

Whodunnit???

What makes this book so darn good is that we are following the case at the exact same time as Hawthorne and Horowitz, as if it is being written in real time to some extent.

Other than a brief intro that details Cowper’s movements on the day she goes to the funeral home, we know nothing else.

And as we are being drip-fed details about her life, there are also clues for us to find if we’re paying close enough attention.

Along the way, we learn that Detective Hawthorne is a rather unlikeable fellow who gives Horowitz absolutely nothing about himself to pad out the story, a trend that continues through the series of books.

But rather than detract from the story, this additional layer of intrigue adds another element to what is, overall, an excellent puzzle that is just waiting to be solved.

2. The Sentence Is Death

Despite the clear mutual dislike between Horowitz and Private Investigator Daniel Hawthorne, another confounding murder brings the duo back together.

This time it is to solve the bizarre death of Richard Pryce a celebrity divorce lawyer who lives in the upscale neighbourhood of Hampstead Heath.

The book leads with Horowitz on set for the production of Foyle’s War, at which point filming is interrupted by the arrival of Daniel Hawthorne.

He has another case, which means a second book, and despite his reluctance, Horowitz bites, and off they go to Hampstead Heath.

It’s another great murder mystery, but if you learn anything from the first book, it is how to spot the red herrings and how to spot the clues that Horowitz weaves into the narrative.

So if, like me, you fancy yourself a bit of an amateur sleuth, you might guess who did it. I did but didn’t pick up on the ‘why’ so it was still a satisfying read.

Again, we learn a little more about Hawthorne, but frustratingly not enough to really get the full measure of who he is.

If there’s a hook with this series of books, it is Daniel Hawthorne, so I really hope that Anthony Horowitz has an end game to give us a full lowdown on this elusive character.

3. A Line To Kill

Having barely gotten out of book two alive, the reluctance from Anthony Horowitz to once again get involved in any crime-solving is evident from the get-go.

The problem is that in advance of the first book, ‘The Word is Murder‘ being published, the agent and publishing house want Horowitz and Hawthorne to do the rounds at the various literary festivals.

Before they know it, they are packed off to Alderney, where, in the middle of the festival, the uber-rich sponsor of the event is murdered.

Not a lot of people are exactly saddened by his death, but that doesn’t mean a killer should go free.

So with that, the duo is back on the case, but this time, there is a personal twist.

Derek Abbott is the man who accused Hawthorne of pushing him down a flight of stairs, an incident that resulted in Hawthorne being fired as a detective.

And Abbott lives on the island. So, can he shed any light on Hawthorne’s elusive past, and will Horowitz find out what happened in the Yorkshire village of Reeth?

4. The Twist of a Knife

With his agreed three book deal done and dusted, Horowitz could easily live out the rest of his life never seeing Private Investigator Daniel Hawthorne ever again.

That is until he actually needs him.

Anthony Horowitz has written a play which, unfortunately for him, is panned by a particularly vicious critic, Harriet Crosby.

When Harriet is murdered, all fingers and evidence point squarely at Horowitz. With the police closing in and nowhere else to turn, he reluctantly calls in the help of Daniel Hawthorne to prove his innocence.

Now, no spoilers here, but as we’re already moving on to book five, and Horowitz doesn’t write it from prison, we can skip the pretense and acknowledge that they do find the real killer.

And it’s all very clever, with plenty of twists and turns, but more importantly, it gives us a lot more information about who Hawthorne is.

Don’t get too excited, it’s still all very vague but still, something is better than nothing!

5. Close to Death

Released in 2024, Close to Death is the fifth book in the series, and it takes a very different turn to what we’ve come to expect from this partnership.

The story starts off in the third person and relays the goings on in a small private neightbourhood called Riverview Close.

One by one, we are introduced to the residents in each of the six houses, and for the first 60 pages or so, there isn’t even a mention of either Anthony or Daniel.

That is because, as Horowitz explains partway through the book that it has been a year since The Twist of a Knife, and he hasn’t heard from Hawthorne in months.

However, when Hilda Starke makes it clear that book five is due, he has no choice but to get back in contact and suggest that they write about an old case instead, if only to meet the contract deadline.

Reluctantly, Hawthorne agrees but only on the condition that he gets to read the chapters as they are being written at which time he will release more case files, allowing the book to be finished.

With no alternative options, Anthony begins at the beginning with the murder of Giles Kenworthy at Riverview Lodge in Richmond.

However, the story doesn’t end with the whodunnit because it transpires that the person who the police believe committed the crime did not.

So what was once a historical case now becomes a current case as Anthony goes in search of more answers than are in the files.

And along the way, he finds out more about Hawthorne than he bargained for.

Do You Have To Read Them In Order?

I’m sure that some people have read this particular series of books out of order, but for me personally, and for continuity, you really should start at the start.

Read the books in order because even though Anthony Horowitz kindly gives a brief synopsis of where he is up to with Hawthorne, it’s cursory and doesn’t do either character any justice.

There’s also a weird pleasure in discovering more about Hawthorne and trying to piece together the little clues that crop up along the way.

Now that we’re five books in, it is patently clear that Horowitz has created himself as a sidekick character.

As he has said himself, he is Watson to Hawthorne’s Sherlock but it’s the interaction between them that is comedy gold.

Dry and witty, there’s a sardonic side to Hawthorne that is the perfect balance to Horowitz’s otherwise quite cheery life, even if he is well and truly fed up by the Private Investigator.

So from that perspective, in order to fully immerse yourself in their relationship, you need to read the books in order.

The Word Is Murder TV Adaptation

Anybody who has read all five of these books is desperate to know three things.

1. How many more will there be?

2. Will it be turned into a TV series?

3. Who will play Detective Hawthorne?

The good news is that Anthony Horowitz has stated multiple times that he plans to write 12 books in the series.

The idea is that by the end we will find out what happened to Hawthorne when he was a child and how that shaped him into being such a difficult adult.

For the second question, the answer interestingly also doubles as the answer for the third question…

When speaking to the San Diego Union Tribune back in October 2022, Horowitz was asked:

“If this series is developed for TV, which actors would you like to play Anthony Horowitz and Daniel Hawthorne?”

He replied: “Ha ha! I do think it will end up on TV eventually, and I can suggest two casting possibilities.

“Hawthorne was originally based on a wonderful actor called Charlie Creed-Miles, who acted in a TV show which I had written. It was called “Collision.”

“As for the narrator, Rory Kinnear does a brilliant job reading the books on Audible, and I’d love to see him play me.

“That’s assuming George Clooney is not available, of course.”

So we can infer from that answer that Horowitz knows that a TV adaptation is in the works, though very little has happened with it so far.

That could be because his other novel, Moonflower Murders is currently being made for the BBC as a follow-up to Magpie Murders.

What Would Detective Hawthorne Look Like In Real Life?

So in Horowitz’s head, Charlie Creed-Miles is who he sees as Hawthorne. The two paired up for the mini-series Injustice back in 2011.

The five part series, which also starred James Purefoy and Dervla Kirwan, is based around William Travers, a criminal barrister known for his history of successfully defending those accused of the worst crimes.

He is drawn back into the complexities of legal drama when an old friend, suspected of murder, asks for his help.

As Travers investigates the case, he becomes entangled in a deeper conspiracy and must navigate difficult moral dilemmas, confront his past, and uncover the truth in a world where justice is not always straightforward.

It would seem that their collab left a lasting impression, certainly enough for Horowitz to have envisioned Charlie Creed-Miles as Detective Hawthorne.

Whether that particular casting comes to pass remains to be seen.

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