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Book Nook - 31-12-2018

Monday, December 31, 2018
By Deepa Gahlot

There are Lit Fests taking place all over the country, but the community of readers is dwindling. Still, passionate book lovers would like to know what others like themselves are reading. This Book Nook suggests some books, but would also like to connect with serious readers, or even casual airport book browsers. Do write in about books you have loved or hated and why. The best entries will be shared on this page. Please send your recommendations to adc.booknook@gmail.com

Horowitz & Hawthorne
Anthony Horowitz is a bestselling author, who has written two Bond thrillers, Trigger Mortis and Forever And A Day, a Sherlock Holmes mystery, The House Of Silk, his own very popular Alex Rider series for young adults among other novels, TV series and films. He worked himself into the book, The Word Is Murder, when he reluctantly undertakes to write a crime book featuring, a former (he was fired for attacking a paedophile) police detective Daniel Hawthorne, who has been consultant on a TV series written by Horowitz.

Horowitz does not quite like Hawthorne, who has the uncanny ability to read his mind (and annoyingly calls him Tony), but does not share too many details about his own life. The two are thrown together again in the aptly titled, The Sentence Is Death, into which the detective makes a grand entry right into a complicated scene of the TV serial that is being shot on a London street.

When a celebrity divorce lawyer Richard Pryce is found dead in his home, his head bashed with an expensive bottle of wine (he is a teetotaler), Hawthorne is summoned to investigate in his new role as a consultant to the police on ‘sticky’ cases, and he strings along Horowitz to write the second book based on this case.

The lawyer obviously had many enemies but the main suspect is Akira Anno an unpleasant writer of pretentious books, who had poured wine on Pryce’s head in a restaurant and threatened to kill him with the bottle, because she felt he got her a raw deal in her divorce from real estate millionaire, Adrian Lockwood.

As the enigmatic Hawthorne, with a curious-but-resentful Horowitz as his sidekick, start investigating, the list of suspects grows. To make it worse for the writer, he is attacked by the nasty cop Cara Grumshaw, who does not want Hawthorne to get credit for solving the case. In the last book, Horowitz was astonished to discover that Hawthorne has a hobby making model planes, in this one he is even more surprised that the lone-wolf kind of cop is also a member of a book club. The writer is forced to address one of the sessions, in the home of genial Bengali lady and her computer wiz son—the ex-cop’s secret helper.

The novel is cleverly plotted, with large doses of humour and an enigmatic detective who knows more than he is willing to let on, even to his ‘biographer.’ In the book, Horowitz reveals that he signed a three-book deal for the Hawthorne-led crime stories and often regrets it; but readers would be pleased if there were more books with this writer-cop partnership.

The Sentence Is Death
By Anthony Horowitz
Publisher: Century
Pages: 400

Excerpt of  The Sentence Is Death
I left Hawthorne in my office – actually a Winnebago trailer parked halfway up a side street – while I went to get us both coffees from the catering truck.
When I returned, he was sitting at the desk, leafing through the latest draft of ‘The Eternity Ring’, which rather annoyed me because I certainly hadn’t invited him to read my work. At least he wasn’t smoking. These days, I hardly know anyone who smokes but Hawthorne was still getting through about a packet a day, which was why we usually met outside coffee shops, sitting in the street.

‘I wasn’t expecting you,’ I said, as I climbed back inside.

‘You don’t seem too pleased.’

‘Well, as a matter of fact, I’m quite busy… although you probably didn’t notice that when you drove straight into the middle of the set.’

‘I wanted to see you.’ He waited until I had sat down opposite him. ‘How’s the book going?’

‘I’ve finished it.’

‘I still don’t like the title.’

‘I’m still not giving you any choice.’

‘All right! All right!’ He looked up at me as if I had somehow, and for no good reason, offended him. He had mud-brown eyes but it was remarkable how they still managed to appear so clear, so completely innocent. ‘I can see you’re in a bad mood today, but you know it’s not my fault you overslept.’
‘Who told you I’d overslept?’ I asked, falling into the obvious trap.

‘And you still haven’t found your phone.’

‘Hawthorne…!’

‘You didn’t lose it in the street,’ he went on. ‘I think you’ll find it’s somewhere in your flat. And I’ll give you a word of advice. If Michael Kitchen doesn’t like your script, maybe you should think about hiring another actor. Don’t take it out on me!’

I stared at him, playing back what he had just said and wondering what evidence he could possibly have for any of it. Michael Kitchen was the star of Foyle’s War and although it was true we’d had a lot of discussion about the new episode, I hadn’t mentioned it to anyone apart from Jill, who knew anyway. And I certainly hadn’t brought up my sleeping patterns or the fact that I had been unable to find my phone when I got up that morning.

‘What are you doing here, Hawthorne?’ I demanded. I had never once called him by his first name, not from the day I had met him. I’m not sure anybody did. ‘What do you want?’

‘There’s been another murder,’ he said. He stretched out the last word in that odd accent of his. Another murrrr-der. It was almost as if he was relishing it.

‘And?’

He blinked at me. Wasn’t it obvious? ‘I thought you’d want to write about it.’

Bond BEGINS
Readers have enjoyed Ian Fleming’s spy thrillers and seen the films, but very little is actually known about how James Bond came to be 007, with a Licence to Kill.

Anthony Horowitz, writing his second Bond novel after Trigger Mortis, goes bravely into an origin story.Forever And A Day is set before Casino Royale, when James Bond is a fledgling intelligence agent and not yet 007.

The 007, whose number he inherits, turns up dead in the French Riviera at the start of this book. Young James Bond, who has successfully carried out an assassination of a traitor in Stockholm, is promoted by M (who is still a male and not the book version of Dame Judy Dench) to the small and elite group of spy-hitmen in the Double 0 programme, and sent off to find out what happened to his predecessor.

It is only a matter of time before he meets the mandatory femme fatale in a casino, a beautiful (of course!) woman called Sixtine. She is an expert at cards and prefers her martinis “shaken not stirred,”—so now we know where that signature line came from.

Sixtine is an enigmatic Mata Hari type, who knows everyone and everything—including who Bond is and why he is in Monte Carlo. Once this secret is out, Bond hits it off with Sixtine and the end up in bed (of course!) even as she is dating American millionaire, Irwin Wolfe. Bond has been described in one of the later films as a “sexist, misogynistic dinosaur,” but here he is told by Sixtine (in a post #MeToo world, though the story is set in the 1950s), at whom he makes a silly pass, “I want to make it clear that you are never to touch me again without asking.”

The Bond Villain is a Corsican Italian gangster, and drug lord—a very, very fat man called Jean-Paul Scipio, who, speaks only Corsican, so carries an interpreter with him at all times, and  declares, “I have total control here in Marseilles, the port, the city, the police, the justice system? It is all mine!”
There are many action scenes and car chases around hairpin bends, and a luxurious cruise liner where Bond finds himself imprisoned at some point, which are meant for the screen, should the book be turned into a film.

As with his previous Bond book, Trigger Mortis, Horowitz was given some original material by the Fleming estate, the outline for a TV series that was never made, and he builds expertly on that, including Fleming’s story as a ‘flashback’ in this book, an incident that took place at the casino where he meets Sixtine.

James Bond may wear elegant suits, drive a fancy car and have a housekeeper make his breakfast just so, but he still at a stage where he has a lot of learning to do, and Sixtine turns out to be a major influence (she even teaches him which brand of cigarettes to smoke!). Horowitz’s fast-paced and very readable novel pays homage to Fleming, but also imagines what James Bond was like, before he got comfortable in his role as 007. Bond fans should be happy that Bond lives on.

Forever And A Day
By Anthony Horowitz
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
Pages: 304

Excerpt of Forever And A Day
The heavy, sweet smell of Capstan Navy Flake hung in the air. M used the pipe to punctuate his thoughts. The age-old ritual, the lighting and the relighting, gave him time to consider the decisions that had to be made.

‘We need someone to look into what happened,’ he went on. ‘This business with the Corsicans doesn’t sound particularly pressing. If there are fewer drugs coming out of France, that’s something to be grateful for. But I’m not having one of my best agents put down like a dog. I want to know who did this and why and I want that person removed from the field. And if it turns out that this woman, Sixtine, was responsible, that goes for her too.’

Tanner understood exactly what M was saying. He wanted an eye for an eye. Somebody had to be killed.

‘Who do you want me to send? I’m afraid 008 is still out of action.’

‘You’ve spoken to Sir James?’

‘Yes, sir.’ Sir James Molony was the senior neurologist at St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington and one of the few men who knew M both socially and professionally. Over the years he had treated a number of agents for injuries, including stab wounds and bullet wounds, always with complete insouciance and discretion. ‘It’s going to be another few weeks.’

‘And 0011?’

‘In Miami.’

M laid down the pipe and stared at it tetchily. ‘Well, then we have no choice. We’re just going to bring forward this other chap you’ve been preparing. It’s been on my mind to expand the Double‑O Section anyway. Their work is too important and right now we’ve got one injured, another one dead… we need to be prepared. How is he doing?’

‘Well, sir, he managed his first kill without any difficulty. It was that Kishida business. The Japanese cipher man.’

‘Yes, yes. I read the report. He’s certainly a good shot and he kept his nerve. At the same time, though, firing a bullet into the thirty-sixth floor of a New York skyscraper doesn’t necessarily prove anything.’

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