Three Mysteries by Anthony Horowitz

Mar 13, 2021 | 2021 Articles, Mysteryrat's Maze, Sharon Tucker

by Sharon Tucker

I’m not sure it actually matters what we read. Our lives continue along the straight lines that have been set out for us. Fiction merely allows us a glimpse of the alternative. Maybe that’s one of the reasons we enjoy it.
? Anthony Horowitz, Magpie Murders

Many of us were introduced to Anthony Horowitz through his TV series Foyle’s War and the remarkable detective DCI Christopher Foyle who held civilization together in Hastings, England, during WWII and after. It’s ironic that he wanted to do more for the war effort than routine civilian policing when the cases he solved were anything but routine to most of us. He just kept running afoul of unpleasant bureaucrats who had a score to settle or were indifferent to him. The series was clever, well written, and character rich. So, I’m glad to say that these same characteristics apply to each of the three from different Horowitz series I chose to read.

I chose Moriarty (2014) from the Sherlock Holmes series, Magpie Murders from the Susan Ryland series, and Horowitz’s Bond series, Trigger Mortis (2015). The eras of Victorian England, the mid-50s, and the 60s are well represented, as is writing in the style of Christie, Conan Doyle, and Fleming. I believe Horowitz has a penchant for the pre-digital age, perhaps, because it’s simpler to write minus the equipment and communications complications of the last few decades. He captures it well; I’ll give him that.

I might not have chosen Moriarty to read had I known that neither Holmes nor Watson appear in the novel. I had enjoyed The House of Silk (2014), particularly seeing the Great Detective and Dr. Watson from a different perspective and never dreamed that here I’d be in the hands of a Pinkerton agent, Frederick Chase, and another Scotland Yard detective, Athelney Jones, who are faced with a master criminal from the United States in the process of taking over Moriarty’s criminal network and going it one better by utilizing his American citizenship to the utmost degree. I must say it is fun to see both detectives rather clumsily putting the methods of Holmes into practice. I was shocked by the ending but should have seen it coming. To speak more of the plot would be too much of a risk but do be aware that the title of the novel is, after all, Moriarty.

In Magpie Murders, we readers meet Atticus Pund by way of Susan Ryeland, novelist Alan Cowdray’s editor, doing her best to cope with an author who’s becoming more difficult to work with as time goes by. (Regarding Ryeland, I have to say I was reminded of some of the protagonists in Sophie Hannah’s novels whose personal lives are messy, but who compensate as astute professional women.) We switch gears between the world of the Cowdray novel, where Pund comes to a village to investigate the death of the local aristocrat, and the world of Susan Ryeland who suspects recent events involving Cowdray point to something amiss—his improbable behavior is baffling. What follows is a series of improbable events on Cowdray’s pages as well as Ryeland’s that will lead readers up and down. I hope the upcoming PBS/BritBox production doesn’t simplify it too much.

I grew up reading Ian Fleming so have been as bemused by the authors who take up writing in the Fleming style, sanctioned by the estate or not. Trigger Mortis has a definite flavor of Fleming, and Horowitz doesn’t let too much contemporary political correctness reinterpret his James Bond. Bond here is still in the world of Auric Goldfinger’s following vengeance and Pussy Galore’s heterosexual conversion, however temporary. Bond must prevent the Russians (SMERSH) from sabotaging a sporting event and staging an assassination as the adventure begins, but we soon meet yet another of the larger-than-life Fleming villains we love to hate. Here I’ll intimate that the Space Race is important to the plot and share that Bond hasn’t lost his touch with the ladies, with cars, or with his armaments. I really think this is the best of the Bond continuations I’ve read—the truest to form.

Frankly, although I enjoy the circumlocutions of Horowitz’s brain and likewise that of his characters, I found myself missing the more human touch that actors’ embodying his characters can lend to an author’s work. Michael Kitchen as well as Honeysuckle Weeks and Anthony Howell put a human face to Horowitz’s sometimes less than sympathetic characters, giving them quirks that humanized what was on the page. Kitchen would chew his lip meditatively with a faraway look in his eyes and use ever the gentle voice. Weeks had a forced cheerfulness that broke one’s heart as she tried to put on a brave face in facing calamity. Howell found and demonstrated a profound sense of peace and compassion in the most improbable wasteland of despair WWII left him floundering in as his life fell apart. These nuances aren’t found on the page and their absence can leave one cold. So, again, I really look forward to seeing what Timothy Spall and Lesley Manville will do with Atticus Pund and Susan Ryeland from Magpie Murders.

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Sharon Tucker is former faculty at the University of Memphis in Memphis TN, and now enjoys evening supervising in that campus library. Having forsworn TV except for online viewing and her own movies, she reads an average of 3 to 4 books per week and has her first novel—a mystery, of course—well underway.

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.


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