Television writer/Christie-loving Sherlock-ian Horowitz (Magpie Murders, 2017, etc.) spins a fiendishly clever puzzle about a television writer/Christie-loving Sherlock-ian named Anthony Something who partners with a modern Sherlock Holmes to solve a baffling case.
Six hours after widowed London socialite Diana Cowper calls on mortician Robert Cornwallis to make arrangements for her own funeral, she’s suddenly in need of them after getting strangled in her home. The Met calls on murder specialist Daniel Hawthorne, an ex-DI bounced off the force for reasons he’d rather not talk about, and he calls on the narrator (“nobody ever calls me Tony”), a writer in between projects whose agent expects him to be working on The House of Silk, a Holmes-ian pastiche which Horowitz happens to have published in real life. Anthony’s agreement with Hawthorne to collaborate on a true-crime account of the case is guaranteed to blindside his agent (in a bad way) and most readers (in entrancingly good ways). Diana Cowper, it turns out, is not only the mother of movie star Damian Cowper, but someone who had her own brush with fame 10 years ago when she accidentally ran over a pair of 8-year-old twins, killing Timothy Godwin and leaving Jeremy Godwin forever brain-damaged. A text message Diana sent Damian moments before her death—“I have seen the boy who was lacerated and I’m afraid”—implicates both Jeremy, who couldn’t possibly have killed her, and the twins’ estranged parents, Alan and Judith Godwin, who certainly could have. But which of them, or which other imaginable suspect, would have sneaked a totally unpredictable surprise into her coffin and then rushed out to commit another murder?
Though the impatient, tightfisted, homophobic lead detective is impossible to love, the mind-boggling plot triumphs over its characters: Sharp-witted readers who think they’ve solved the puzzle early on can rest assured that they’ve opened only one of many dazzling Christmas packages Horowitz has left beautifully wrapped under the tree.