The Twist Of A Knife, by Anthony Horowitz
(HarperCollins, 384 pages)
After watching and rewatching every episode of Foyle’s War, and waiting impatiently for the finale of Magpie Murders on PBS, I devoured the next dish on the multitalented Anthony Horowitz’s table – his newest novel, A Twist Of The Knife – in one weekend gulp. From the opening line where Horowitz, the character, ends his deal with Hawthorne, the detective in his most recent trio of novels, to the last paragraph, I was reading at top speed.
Horowitz’s elegant twists wouldn’t let me put the novel down, and the first one surfaced at the beginning. Anthony Horowitz has written a play that is torpedoed by a theatre critic who turns up dead the next day. The police immediately suspect Horowitz and he spends a dreadful day in jail. All the superficial clues point to him and he has no reliable alibi. Who to help? The best detective he knows is the one he just fired. Time to eat some crow and beg for help. Hawthorne manages to buy 48 hours to find the real culprit before the police close their net on Horowitz. This is definitely one of Horowitz’s best and that makes it one of the best of 2022.
A World Of Curiosities, by Louise Penny
(Minotaur, 390 pages)
As series readers, we know the awful feeling of trepidation when opening a new novel by a beloved author. After 10 or 12 stories will the characters turn to caricature? The plots to repeats? Is the writer written out? Well, in her eighteenth novel set in Three Pines, Quebec, and featuring Armand Gamache, Louise Penny isn’t down or out. She’s at the top of her game with one of the best Gamache works yet, which is based on real events in Quebec history and gives us background into Gamache himself.
We begin in Three Pines and the return of siblings Fiona and Sam Arsenault. Ten years before, Gamache had investigated the murder of their mother, who, it appeared, had been prostituting her children. It was on that case that Gamache met Jean-Guy Beauvoir, who became his trusted second-in-command as well as his son-in-law. Since the end of the investigation, Gamache has remained in touch with Fiona. The Arsenaults arrive in the village as a series of murders have occurred, which seem to be related to a copy of a 17th-century painting found in a hidden room, along with “a world of curiosities.” Gamache must decipher the painting if he’s to catch the killer and avoid more deaths. To do that, he has to dig into his own history and so do we. Again, Louise Penny delivers a terrific story peopled with the usual wonderful characters and a gorgeous setting.
Blackwater Falls, by Ausma Zehanat Khan
(Minotaur, 372 pages)
Blackwater Falls is getting a lot of attention for excellent reasons. Canadian-British author Ausma Zehanat Khan, who already has a trio of YA fantasy books and three fine mysteries with social-justice themes and international settings, now has a new mystery featuring a fascinating team of police who investigate the police.
Detective Inaya Rahman is a devout Muslim living in a racist and misogynistic small town. When a young Muslim woman is murdered, Inaya knows the girl, the family, the history and prays at the mosque where her body was found. What she doesn’t know is that the dead girl isn’t the first victim. Muslim women have been disappearing for months and the local sheriff and police have dismissed the reports saying the women ran away from home. Is it racism or is local law enforcement the hiding place of a serial killer?
The plot and central characters are well constructed and I particularly like the interaction between the women – Inaya, Catalina, and Areesha. The light romantic touch is a bit distracting and the bad guys are a bit over the top with their insults and jibes. Still, this looks like the beginning of a series and I want more. The guys can take a hike and let the women carry the next book.
The Globe 100: The best books of 2022
The Glass Pearls, by Emeric Pressburger
(Faber, 288 pages)
Film buffs know Emeric Pressburger as the partner of director Michael Powell. The pair formed the Archers company and wrote, directed and produced some of Britain’s finest films of the 1940s, including The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, Black Narcissus and The Red Shoes. Later, Pressburger’s career stalled and he wrote two novels. The Glass Pearls, first published in 1966 and set in London, is a brilliant and engaging work.
Karl Braun is a piano tuner barely eking out a living in London. He lives in a cheap boarding house with a group of other German émigrés who fled the Nazis (as did Pressburger himself). But nostalgia isn’t Braun’s forte. In fact, he’s not even who he says he is. He was formerly Dr. Otto Reitmuller, a dutiful Nazi who experimented on prisoners in concentration camps, did terrible things and feels no remorse. Braun’s sympathy is saved for his dead wife and child, killed in a Hamburg bombing raid, and for himself – as he evades the hunters who he knows are after him.
Pressburger takes the reader deep into Braun/Reitmuller’s mind, following his psychological turns so closely that the reader sometimes, for an instant, hopes he actually survives another day. That is an amazing achievement for a writer who fled the Nazis in 1933 and lost his family in the Holocaust. Too bad Pressburger didn’t have time to write more novels.
The Foulest Things, by Amy Tector
(Keylight Books, 288 pages)
Some of my finest hours have been spent at libraries, researching, reading and browsing. I love the smells and feel of old paper and I can curl up for hours (and occasionally doze) in a quiet corner. So when I get a book subtitled “A Dominion Archives Mystery” I’m already engaged, and Amy Tector doesn’t disappoint: The Foulest Things is an intriguing little novel that combines history with a mystery and a light romance.
Jess Kendall arrives in Ottawa primed for her job as a junior archivist but things aren’t going well. Her colleagues are hardly collegial, her boss already hates her and as for her love life, it appears that no one is interested. Things are definitely not going Jess’s way.
Then things seem to look up. Jess discovers a cache of letters from Paris that cover the early days of the Great War. She sees them as an undiscovered treasure and begins her research. She’s just on the cusp when she opens the archives’ great vault and finds a dead colleague there. Soon, Jess is being stalked and all she can connect it to are the letters – but what possible link could a long-dead correspondent have to a dead librarian in Ottawa in 2010? This is a clever puzzle by a bright new author.