Extract: A Line to Kill by Anthony Horowitz
There has never been a murder on Alderney. It’s a tiny island, just three miles long and a mile and a half wide. The perfect location for a brand new literary festival. Private Investigator Daniel Hawthorne has been invited to talk about his new book. The writer, Anthony Horowitz, travels with him.
Very soon they discover that not all is as it should be. Alderney is in turmoil over a planned power line that will cut through it, desecrating a war cemetery and turning neighbour against neighbour. The visiting authors – including a blind medium, a French performance poet and a celebrity chef – seem to be harbouring any number of unpleasant secrets. When the festival’s wealthy sponsor is found brutally killed, Alderney goes into lockdown and Hawthorne knows that he doesn’t have to look too far for suspects.
There’s no escape. The killer is still on the island. And there’s about to be a second death…
Read on for a chapter of A Line to Kill by Anthony Horowitz!
A Line to Kill
Six weeks later, Hawthorne and I met at Waterloo Station on our way down to Southampton Parkway. It was the second time we had travelled together – the year before, we ’d taken the train up to Yorkshire – and he was carrying the same suitcase with no wheels on the bottom that he had probably taken with him to school. He reminded me a little of those children evacuated during the war. He had the same lost quality.
It seemed to me that he was unusually cheerful. By now I knew him a little better, which is to say that although I had learned very little about his past history, I could at least gauge his moods, and I was certain he was keeping something from me. He’d made it clear that he had no interest in literary festivals, but he’d leapt at the chance to go to Alderney. He’d even known how long it would take to fly. He was clearly up to something – but what?
The train left on time and he took out a paperback copy of The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. It’s a fantastic ghost story and I guessed he was reading it for his book club. We weren’t even out of the station before I’d tackled him. I couldn’t wait any longer.
‘All right,’ I said. ‘You’re going to have to explain it to me.’
He looked up. ‘What?’
‘You know perfectly well. All that stuff you said at Random House. You told me that Graham was having an affair with Tamara, that Trish knew about it, that she ’d just had a baby and that she was worried she was going to lose her job. You also said Hilda was waiting for test results.’
‘That was weeks ago, mate!’ He looked at me a little sadly. ‘Have you been obsessing about it?’
‘Not obsessing, but I would like to know.’
‘You were in the room, Tony. You should have seen it all too.’
‘Do me a favour, will you, and just tell me…’
Hawthorne considered for a moment, then turned his book face down and laid it on the table. ‘Well, let’s start with Hilda. Did you see her arm?’
‘She was wearing a jacket.’
‘No. She ’d taken it off and put it on the back of her chair. There was a little patch where the skin was a bit paler, right over the median cubital vein.’
‘I don’t even know what that is.’
‘It’s where the needle goes in for a blood test. She was nervous about something. She was puffing on that vape and she kept on looking at her phone like she was waiting for a text . . . maybe from the doctor. And that lunch of hers in Weymouth Street. I bet she made it up. It’s just round the corner from Harley Street, which is where all the doctors hang out.’
‘What about Graham and Tamara?’
‘The intern – Trish – told him his wife had called twice and that it was important, but he didn’t even ask what it was about. It was obviously something that had been going on for a while. Trish didn’t even wait for him to make a decision, which is a bit strange when you think about it. I can tell her you’re in a meeting, she said. But she was looking at
Tamara when she said it.’
‘That doesn’t necessarily mean they are having an affair.’
‘Didn’t you smell Tamara’s perfume?’
‘No. I didn’t.’
‘Well, I did. And it was all over Graham.’
I nodded slowly. I had thought it was aftershave. ‘What about Trish?’ I asked. ‘I didn’t notice any prams or baby photos.’
‘Well, something’s been keeping her awake at night. She looked worn out. And there was a stain on her left shoulder. The only way it could have got there was from burping a baby. You only have to do that until they’re seven or eight months old, so why hasn’t she taken the full twelve months’ maternity leave? She probably hasn’t been at the company that long… she’s only about twenty. I imagine she got pregnant quite soon after she arrived and although they can’t fire her, she’s come back as soon as she can because she’s worried about her future.’
He made it all sound so easy but of course that was the whole point. He liked to remind me who was in charge. We didn’t talk again after that. Hawthorne went back to his book and I took out my iPad and went through my emails.
From the moment my publishers had accepted the invitation to Alderney, I’d been bombarded with messages from the festival organiser, Judith Matheson, and already I was nervous about meeting her. She seemed quite formidable, chasing me for information and following up if she hadn’t had a reply within a few hours. Would I be happy staying at the Braye Beach Hotel? Did I have any special dietary requirements? Did I want to rent a car? Would I be signing books? She had arranged the train and air tickets, booked my hotel room and made sure I had access to an up-to-date festival programme. Only the evening before, she had emailed me to say that a few of the invited writers would be congregating at the airport and that I should join them at the Globe Bar and Kitchen just before security and passport control. You’ll have time for a pub platter and a pint before you take off, she wrote, even suggesting what I might eat.
I swiped across to the festival website and checked out the writers with whom I was going to be spending a long weekend.
Marc needs no introduction, as anyone who has watched his Sunday-morning cookery show – Lovely Grub – on ITV2 will know. Marc isn’t afraid of ruffling feathers with his no-nonsense approach to cuisine that he promises will be anything but ‘haute ’. Old-school favourites including steak pie, fried chicken and sticky toffee pudding are on the menu, and in the words of his catchphrase, ‘It’s cobblers to calories’. He’ll be celebrating the launch of the Lovely Grub Cookbook on Alderney and has agreed to prepare a Saturday-night supper for the festival organisers and guests.
Born with diabetes, Elizabeth Lovell lost her eyesight just before her thirtieth birthday. At the same time, though, she realised that she had developed a unique gift to ‘see ’ into the spirit world and to hear voices from the other side. Her story was told in her autobiography, Blind Sight, which sold two hundred thousand copies online. This was followed by Second Sight and her new book, Dark Sight, which continues her story. Elizabeth lives in Jersey with her husband, Sid. She gives talks all over the world and we are delighted to welcome her back to Alderney.
George Elkin is Alderney’s most famous historical writer. He was born and brought up in Crabby, where he still lives with his wife, and brilliantly described the German occupation of the Channel Islands 1940–45 in his first book, The German Occupation of the Channel Islands 1940–45. This was followed by Operation Green Arrow and The Atlantic Wall, both of which were shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize. He will be talking about his next book, which examines the construction and running of the four labour camps built by the Germans on Alderney during the war. He is also a keen birdwatcher and amateur artist.
Is there anyone under the age of ten who hasn’t followed the adventures of Bill and Kitty Flashbang, the superpowered twins? Bill can fly, Kitty turns invisible and together they have saved the world from ghosts, dragons, mad robots and alien invaders! A former nurse, prison visitor and founder of the charity Books Behind Bars, Anne Cleary will be talking about the inspiration behind her work and there will be a special children’s session at (appropriately!) St Anne ’s School, where young people will be encouraged to develop their writing
and drawing skills.
Daniel Hawthorne and Anthony Horowitz
You may have read detective stories, but here’s your chance to meet a real detective. Daniel Hawthorne spent many years working at Scotland Yard in London before he became a private investigator. He works now as a special consultant on many high-level investigations, the most recent of which has been turned into a book (published later this year) by best-selling author Anthony Horowitz, who also wrote the Alex Rider series. The two of them will be interviewed by States member Colin Matheson and there will be plenty of opportunity for questions from audience members with a taste for true crime.
We are very pleased to welcome Maïssa Lamar from France, where she has won great acclaim as a performance poet. Born and educated in Rouen, she writes and performs in Cauchois, a dialect spoken in the east of Normandy, which has led Le Monde newspaper to describe her as ‘a leading light in the revival of Cauchois culture ’. Maïssa is also an associate professor at the University of Caen and has published three collections of poetry. Her performance at the Alderney Summer Festival will be conducted partly in English and partly in French with English subtitles.
So that was it: an unhealthy chef, a blind psychic, a war historian, a children’s author, a French performance poet, Hawthorne and me. Not quite the magnificent seven, I couldn’t help thinking.
There were just three of them waiting for us at the Globe Bar and Kitchen when we finally arrived. George Elkin was presumably at his home in Crabby. Elizabeth Lovell and her husband, Sid, would be crossing by ferry from Jersey. But Marc Bellamy, Anne Cleary and Maïssa Lamar were already sitting round a table, chatting away as if they were old friends. It turned out that they had all come down on the train ahead of us, along with another young woman, Kathryn Harris, who introduced herself as Marc’s assistant.
It’s an incredible thought that there are more than three hundred and fifty literary festivals in the UK. I’ve been to many of them. Appledore, Birmingham, Canterbury, Durham… It wouldn’t be difficult to travel the entire country from north to south, working my way through the alphabet at the same time. I think there ’s something wonderful and reassuring about the idea that in the rush of modern life people will still come together and sit for an hour in a theatre, a gymnasium or a giant tent simply out of a love of books and reading. There ’s a sort of innocence about it. Everyone is so friendly and I’ve hardly ever met a writer – no matter how big a best-seller – who’s been difficult or stand-offish; on the contrary, many of them have become good friends. Somehow, when I think of literary festivals (even Hay-on-Wye, where this is very rarely the case), the sun is always shining.
But I was uneasy as I sat down with the other guests in Southampton. Our surroundings didn’t help. The Globe was an airport restaurant serving airport food. That was the best and the worst I could say of it. The bright lighting and open-plan configuration, spilling into the terminal, didn’t help. We might just as well have been eating on the runway. Also, I still wasn’t convinced that Alderney was a good idea. With just six weeks’ notice, I hadn’t had time to prepare and I still had no idea how Hawthorne would perform when he was put on a stage. Talking about Alex Rider or Sherlock Holmes was one thing, but having the subject of the book sitting next to me would put me well outside my comfort zone. And it wasn’t just that. As I joined Marc, Anne and Maïssa at the table, I immediately felt that I was an outsider, that I didn’t belong.
I recognised Marc Bellamy from the photograph I had seen of him on the festival website. He was even wearing the same clothes: a bottle-green jacket, an open-neck shirt with a double-sized collar and a pair of half-rim reading glasses on a gold chain around his neck. Like many of the television celebrities I had met, he was actually much smaller than he seemed on the screen and although his teeth were very white and his tan very deep, he didn’t look well. Perhaps that went with his persona. After all, he specialised in unhealthy food, railing against vegans, vegetarians and pescatarians (‘the worst of the lot… there ’s something fishy about them’) on his show. Of course, he was only having fun, delivering his jokey insults with an exaggerated Yorkshire accent accompanied by a nudge and a wink. He was overweight – chubby rather than fat. His hair was swept back in waves with a little silver around the ears. His nose was a road map of broken blood vessels. I guessed he was about forty.
‘How do!’ he exclaimed when he saw us. This was actually one of his catchphrases. ‘You must be Anthony and Mr Hawthorne – or is it the other way round! Hawthorne and Mr Anthony.’ He laughed at that. ‘Don’t be shy. Come and sit down. I’m Marc. This is my assistant, Kathryn. That’s Maïssa, with two dots over the i, and I’m talking about her name, not her forehead. And Anne Cleary – rhymes with dreary, but she ’s anything but! Scribblers United… that’s what we should call ourselves. You’ve got time for a bite. Plane’s on the runway, but they haven’t finished winding the elastic.’ He laughed again. ‘Anyway, we ’ve already ordered. What are you going to have?’
We took our places. Hawthorne asked for a glass of water. I went for a Diet Coke.
‘Horrible stuff! Be a good girl and put in the order, will you?’ These last words were addressed to his assistant. She was in her early twenties, slim and a little awkward, hiding behind a pair of glasses that covered most of her face. She had been staring at her knees, trying not to be noticed, but now she stood up and hurried away. ‘She ’s a good girl,’ Marc continued, speaking in a stage whisper, shielding his mouth with the back of his hand. ‘Only just joined me. Loves my show, which is just as well. It means I don’t have to pay her so much!’
There was something quite desperate about the way hen talked, as if he was always searching for the next joke just around the corner but was afraid he would never quite reach it. I didn’t quite have Hawthorne’s deductive skills, but I’d have bet good money that he was a lonely man, probably not married, possibly divorced.
‘Hello, Anthony.’ Anne Cleary greeted me as if she knew me and I felt my heart sink as although I knew who she was, I couldn’t remember having met her.
‘How nice to see you again, Anne,’ I said.
She scowled but without malice. ‘You’ve forgotten me,’ she said, reproachfully. ‘You and I had a long chat at the Walker Books summer party a couple of years ago. That was when they were still having summer parties.’
‘You’re with Walker Books?’ I asked. They published Alex Rider.
‘Not really. I just did a one-off for them. It was a picture book. Hedgehogs Don’t Grow on Trees.’
‘I ate a hedgehog once,’ Marc chipped in. ‘Roasted in clay. It was actually quite nice. Served up by a couple of Gypsies.’
‘I think you mean travellers,’ Anne said.
‘They can travel all they like, love. They’re still gyppos to me!’
Anne turned back to me. ‘We talked about politics… Tony Blair.’
‘Of course. Yes. I remember.’
‘I bet you don’t, but never mind. Names and faces! I’m exactly the same. That’s the trouble with being a writer. You spend so much time on your own and then suddenly you get fifty people at once. But it is nice to see you again. I thought that when I saw your name on the programme.’
I remembered her now. We ’d talked for about half an hour and we’d even swapped email addresses, although that had come to nothing. She had told me that she lived in Oxford, that her husband was an artist – a portrait painter – and that she had two grown-up children, one of them at university in Bristol. She was one of those Labour voters who had become disillusioned after the Iraq War and had gone on to join the Green Party. I was annoyed with myself and examined her more carefully, determined that I wouldn’t make the same mistake the next time we met. My first thought was that she reminded me of my mother, or somebody’s mother. There was something warm, even protective, about her. The round face, the black hair cut in a sensible way, not hiding the flecks of grey, the comfortable clothes.
‘What are you doing in Alderney?’ I asked. What I meant was, why had she accepted the invitation?
‘I don’t get invited to many festivals these days. Not like you, I’m sure. Are you talking about Alex Rider?’
‘No. I’ve written a detective story…’ I gestured at Hawthorne on the other side of the table ‘…about him.’
‘I’m Daniel Hawthorne.’ I had never heard him offer up his first name and looking at him, I saw that he was actually in awe. ‘I’m pleased to meet you, Anne,’ he went on. ‘My son used to love your books. He’s a bit old for them now, but when he was seven and eight I used to read them to him.’
‘Thank you!’ She smiled.
‘Flashbang Trouble. That was the one with the pirates. It used to make us laugh out loud.’
‘Oh! That’s one of my favourites.’
This was a completely different Hawthorne to the one I knew and it only reminded me how distant I still was from him. I had met his ex-wife once, very briefly. I had never seen his son. But he and Anne had bonded immediately and as the two of them continued to chat, I turned to the performance poet, Maïssa Lamar, and asked: ‘How come you’re here at the airport?’
‘I am here to take the plane to Alderney!’ She picked each word carefully with a French accent that was several coats thick. Or maybe it was Cauchois. She was looking at me as if I had said something ridiculous.
‘I just meant… I thought you’d be coming from France.’
‘Last night I give a performance in London. At the Red Lion theatre in Camden.’
I made a mental note to check her out on YouTube. Maïssa was, at a guess, French Algerian. She was wearing a heavily embroidered jacket and loose-fitting trousers. There was a silver stud in the side of her nose and large silver rings on most of her fingers. Her hair had been cut so short that the scalp showed through, although there was enough left to leave a zigzag pattern on one side. Her large, bright eyes lingered on me briefly before dismissing me. There are contemporary poets whose work I love: Jackie Kay, Sia Figiel, Harry Baker. But I already had a feeling that Maïssa and I weren’t going to get on.
A waiter arrived with the food and drink: coffee, tea, a salad and a plate of meze, a green tea for Maïssa and a pint of bitter for Marc. We had an hour until the plane left. A few moments later, Marc’s assistant, Kathryn, came back with the extra drinks that Hawthorne and I had ordered. She added the bill to the one left behind by the waiter and sat down next to me.
‘So you are a writer also?’ Maïssa asked Hawthorne.
‘Not me, love.’ Hawthorne smiled. ‘I’m a detective.’
‘Really?’ Her eyes widened. ‘What is it then that you do in Alderney?’
‘He’s written a book about me.’ Hawthorne pointed in my direction. ‘He’s going to talk about it. I’m just here for the ride.’
‘What do you investigate?’ Anne asked.
‘I’m more of a consultant now. Financial crime. Domestic crime. Murder.’ He let that last word hang in the air. ‘Whatever comes my way.’
There was a long silence. It struck me that all four of our new acquaintances were a little nervous.
Marc changed the subject. ‘I’ve never got the point of smashed avocado,’ he announced, scooping some onto his pitta bread. ‘And I hate that word – smashed. That’s typical bloody Jamie Oliver. Just slice it up with a sharp knife and that’s good enough for me. Preferably with some crispy bacon on the side.’
‘Would you like me to get you some, Marc?’ Kathryn asked. She had ordered a cheese salad for herself.
‘No, no. What I’m saying is, it’s just another of these modern food fads. When I was growing up, nobody had heard of the bloody things. They used to call them avocado pears and no-one knew what to do with them. There was one geezer even tried to serve them with custard!’
We continued to chat, weighing each other up. Marc ate most of the meze, including all the avocado, and finished his beer. Finally, Kathryn looked at her watch. ‘It’s forty minutes until the plane leaves,’ she said. ‘Perhaps we ought to go through.’
I picked up the two bills. ‘I’ll get this.’ I wasn’t sure why I said that and immediately regretted it. Was I really so desperate to ingratiate myself with the group? The bill came to £29. I left three £10 notes and, as I had no change, £5 for the tip.
We all got up. Maïssa disappeared in the direction of the toilets while the rest of us queued up at passport control. That was at least one benefit of Southampton. The airport was small and the queues were short.
As I reached the security area, I felt in my pocket, instinctively knowing that something was missing. I was right. I had taken out my telephone to check for messages and must have left it on the table. I’m afraid it’s something I do more and more. ‘I’ll be back in a minute,’ I told Hawthorne.
He was still chatting to Anne, his new best friend, and barely nodded.
I hurried back to the restaurant.
As I approached the table, I heard someone speaking rapidly in French and, looking around, I spotted Maïssa outside the toilet, talking to a younger man in a black leather jacket. She had her back to me so she didn’t know I was there. The man was in his twenties with long, greasy blond hair, a thin face and a wispy moustache. I suppose he could have been someone she had met by chance but there was something about their body language and the tone of her voice that told me otherwise. Maïssa was speaking very quickly, annoyed about something. I might have been wrong, but I thought I heard her mention the name Hawthorne.
She looked at her watch, then hurried across to passport control. The younger man waited a few moments, then followed. That was odd too. It was as if they didn’t want to be seen together.
It didn’t take me long to find my phone, which had lodged itself under a serviette. I picked it up and was about to leave when I noticed something else. It was very strange. The waiter hadn’t yet cleared the table. The dirty dishes and glasses were still in place, as was the £30 I’d paid.
But the tip that I’d left, the £5 note, had gone.
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