Trust me, it’s more fun than confusing. Like “Glass Onion,” “The Twist of a Knife” is as much a work of dry humor as it is a murder mystery.
The novel is twisty and fast-paced, as Horowitz and Hawthorne race to find the killer of Sunday Times theater critic Harriet Throsby, who panned “Mindgame,” a play that the real Horowitz wrote. Throsby was a particularly unpleasant woman who liked nothing better than sinking productions with her vicious reviews. In keeping with the novel’s mixing of fact and fiction, some of the action takes place in London’s Vaudeville Theatre, where the real Horowitz’s play had a successful run in the early 2000s.
The evidence points to Horowitz as the killer: Throsby hated his play; one of his hairs was found on her body, and his fingerprints are on the murder weapon, a dagger gifted to him by “Mindgame’s” producer. The police hold him overnight, but the always snide Hawthorne says Horowitz can’t be the killer. “He writes about murder but I’ve seen him get queasy at the sight of blood,” he says. “And if he killed every critic who had something bad to say about his work, there’d be hundreds of corpses littered across the country.”
Not to worry, there are enough other suspects to pack the Vaudeville’s green room. In a nod to closed-circle mysteries like “Murder on the Orient Express,” all the suspects attended the opening night backstage party at the Vaudeville and had access to the dagger. They include “Mindgame’s” three stars: moody Method actor Jordan Williams, the James Dean-like Tirian Kirke and the secret-keeping Sky Palmer. Also in attendance: Ahmet Yurdakul, the play’s near-bankrupt producer; Yurdakul’s “Cats”-obsessed assistant, Maureen Bates; and the director, Ewan Lloyd, whom Throsby critically annihilated once before. Who among them would want to frame Horowitz? And why?
“The Twist of a Knife” is a race-against-the-clock, classic crime fiction cocktail. While paying homage to the genre’s Golden Age, Horowitz also gives a nod to Alfred Hitchcock, adopting his voyeuristic approach to storytelling and building tension as Hitchcock did in “The 39 Steps” and “Saboteur” in which innocent protagonists go on the run. Borrowing from here and there — including from himself — Horowitz has, paradoxically, created something wholly original.
Carol Memmott is a writer in Austin.
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