After a long long time I read two books back to back which were NOT non-fiction. For last few years I have been reading only non-fiction. I needed a break but I wasn’t getting any good fiction recommendations. Thankfully, finally I came across one – and the better part was that it was my favourite genre – murder mystery. I started reading English books, in 1994/95, when I was 14/15 (pretty late by today’s standards, but not late when you consider that I started learning English language at the age of 9). And the first books I read were by Agatha Christie! I was and still am a slow reader (of English language). However, I really wanted to develop a habit of liking and reading English books. So it was important that the first exposure to the language was good. Fortunately, Agatha Christie books were perfect!
Then slowly I moved on to reading P.G. Wodehouse books and Hemingway’s The Old Man and The Sea. Then I read Sherlock Holmes stories, 1 or 2 books of Perry Mason’s courtroom drama (by Earle Stanley Gardner). It was very late, by around 2000, when I started reading the English books written by Indian authors and the non-fiction English books. I think the first one of the kind I read was “India Unbound” by Gurcharan Das.
I think it was good that I started with proper English writers and not by Indian pop-corn writers such as Chetan Bhagat (who hadn’t arrived on the scene then). Be it literature, or music, or sports or cuisine or any other thing – it’s very important to get your initial exposure right; to be acquainted with authentic and quality stuff. Otherwise it’s difficult to develop liking for the thing.
Anyways, to cut the long story short – Murder Mystery was my introduction to English books! However, since then I hadn’t come across any new and contemporary good writers of this genre – until recently. I follow a few Youtube channels which are devoted to books/reading and book reviews. I happened to watch review of a book by Anthony Horowitz and the premise of the book immediately captivated me!
So I bout his first book – The Word Is Murder and finished it a couple of months back.
I enjoyed it immensely! Anthony’s style of writing is very unique and the book reads like a movie screenplay. In fact it is ready for screen adaptation. The premise of the book instantly reminded me of 90’s hit Hindi movie Mai Khiladi Tu Anari.
Yes, being a movie buff I have watched many of such trash movies. In the movie, Saif Ali Khan who plays a movie star wants to hang out with Akshay Kumar who play a cop, so that Saif could watch the real Police Inspector in action and could play the part better in his movies. But that’s where the similarity with the movie ends. Anthony’s book involves similar theme. Anthony – the writer and script-writer of web series – hangs with Hawthorne, an ex-detective who is solving a murder mystery. Hawthorne has approached Anthony to write a book about him solving the murder case and Anthony accepts that offer after initial reluctance. So the book has another book narrative within it and that makes an interesting plot! It’s difficult to compare Anthony with the legendary Agatha Christie, however Anthony’s style is refreshingly unique and engaging. His touch of British humour is distinctly visible throughout the book! I thoroughly enjoyed the book.
So I bought another book titled “The Sentence Is Death” which is a continuation of the same characters – Hawthorne and Anthony himself. You can see the catchy titles and their progression. The first one was “The Word Is Murder”. The second one is “The Sentence Is Death” – which is a word play on the first book (extension of Word is a Sentence) and also on the punishment (called as Sentence in legal terms).
I finished this book 2 days back and enjoyed it a lot! It’s not as good as the first one because in the first Anthony takes time to develop the setting, introduce Hawthorne and the idea of having a book about an author (who is a character in the book) writing a book on murder mystery is fantastic! In the second book that novelty is not there because we already know who writer Anthony and detective Hawthorne are. The second book is good and can be read independently; however, it’s better if you read The Word Is Murder first and then read The Sentence Is Death. The plots and characters are totally different – except for the theme of Anthony and Hawthorne working together to solve a case and to write a book about solving the case.
There is yet another book written by Anthony Horowitz which follows book-within-a-book theme. It’s a murder mystery called “Magpie Murders” and it is not in the same Hawthorne series, but is an independent/standalone book. I have found the reviews to be too good.
But I’m in dilemma whether to read the book or not. The reason is that the book has also been adapted into a web series which is now streaming on Sony Liv. Maybe I should watch that first. Or should I first read the book and then watch the web series? I am confused…
If you like detective/murder mystery books, here is a podcast which you might like…