Close to Death: A Novel (A Hawthorne and Horowitz Mystery, 5)

Image of Close to Death: A Novel (A Hawthorne and Horowitz Mystery, 5)
Release Date: 
April 16, 2024
Reviewed by: 

“An exceptional story dealing with an author’s dilemma as he recreates the story of an old crime as seen through newer eyes several years removed from the incident.”

It has been nearly a year since Anthony Horowitz found himself accused of murder and eventually absolved through the efforts of his friend Hawthorne. He’s written the story, but his agent hasn’t yet seen it. Nevertheless, his contract with his publisher calls for another book.

“I couldn’t write another murder story for the simple reason that nobody had been murdered . . . that’s the trouble with writing what I suppose I. must call true crime.”

Anthony hasn’t heard from Horowitz in months but with agent and publisher clamoring for that next book, he realizes he has to speak to Hawthorne. So, he calls.

Meeting up with the detective, he reminds Hawthorne of a mention he made of an earlier case he solved, of a man killed with a crossbow, happening before he and Anthony met. Pressing for details, Anthony is told he had an assistant who recorded the interviews and took notes, a man named John Dudley.

Eventually, Hawthorne agrees to let Anthony see his files on that particular case.

“But I’d want to see what you were writing.”

“You mean . . . while I was writing it?”


‘Why would you want to do that?” I asked. “Don’t you trust me?”

Eventually, Anthony agrees. After all, he’s writing this story from a distance, not as a first-hand observer. It will not be his story or his observations. He’s more or less making up some of it using Hawthorne’s files as a guide.

It went like this: Riverview Close was a small, close-knit community, made of up people who had lived there for years—a grand chessmaster and his wife, a famous dentist and his invalid wife, two former nuns, a retired criminal barrister. When the Kenworthys move in, trouble begins. Dr. Beresford’s patient dies because Giles Kenworthy prevents him from getting to his office in time; Kenworthy wants to put in a swimming pool that would send noise and the scent of chlorine into Dr.Brown’s invalid wife’s bedroom window; someone kills Phyllis Moore’s dog, after Lynda Kenworthy complains about it to its owner. There are arguments over the Kenworthy children’s behavior and minor acts of vandalism, and complaints of noise from the many parties the couple give. The list goes on and on.

The residents hold a meeting, inviting Kenworthy and his wife, to hash over their problems and try to find an amicable solution. Kenworthy snubs them and doesn’t show up.

Then, he’s found dead in his doorway with a crossbow bolt in his throat.


“Nightmare neighbors,” Dudley agreed. “Basically, they’ve all got the same motive. They all hated Giles Kenworthy.”

Detective Superintendent Khan is assigned to the case. He zeroes in on Dr. Browne because he owned the deadly crossbow. Taken in for a harrowing round of questioning, Dr. Browne is later found dead in his garage with a supposed suicide note.

The dentist did it. Case closed.

Hawthorne isn‘t so certain and continues his own investigation.

In the present, still having his vision of the story edited by Hawthorne, Anthony is doing his own investigating. He goes to Fenchurch International, Hawthorne’s employer, a “shadowy security organization that owned flats throughout the building where it is housed,” and tries to learn more about John Dudley.

Eventually, he learns more than he bargained for—about John Dudley, and a few facets of Hawthorne’s character no one would’ve guessed. He also realizes this particular “true crime” novel has a very different ending from any of the others.

“I know that I’m not much of a detective. Time after time, I’ve followed in Hawthorne’s footsteps, getting everything wrong. But this time, just for once, I’d guessed the truth all on my own and I knew that I was right.”


This is an entertaining novel presented in a unique way. Divided into sections, the first part sets up the crime before Anthony Horowitz becomes involved. As he goes through the records, his writer’s curiosity, piqued by Hawthorne’s reticence concerning Dudley, and he attempts to find out as much as he can about the man. Of course.

Author Horowitz makes the character Horowitz as intrigued by the case as only a writer can be, though he is merely retelling a story already marked solved and filed away. There’s an unspoken question as to whether his discoveries will find their way into the story or if they’ll be tucked away and kept secret, though it’s obvious that justice has finally been served.

An exceptional story, dealing with an author’s dilemma as he recreates the story of an old crime as seen through newer eyes several years removed from the incident. The writer of the Alex Rider series as well as other Hawthorne and Horowitz novels should give himself a pat on the back for this one, with the assurance his readers definitely want more.