Review of “The Word is Murder: An Novel” by Anthony Horowitz

Note: This review is by my husband Jim.

In this self-referential novel, the author plays himself: that is, the real author is a character in the book. Moreover, he shamelessly refers to a number of his previous actual successful publications.

In the opening pages, author Anthony Horowitz, a crime writer of some renown [a fact in reality as well as in the book], is musing about composing a new Sherlock Holmes novel to be written in the style of Arthur Conan Doyle. Before he gets deeply into the new project, however, he is approached by an unusual character, Daniel Hawthorne, a former policeman now working with as a technical adviser for television and movies. Hawthorne relates to him the curious details of a recent murder. Hawthorne is short of cash and wants Horowitz to write a book about solving the murder, starring (of course) Hawthorne.

For reasons not immediately disclosed, Hawthorne was discharged from the police force, but his analytical skills are so well respected that the head of the force often hires him to “assist” the regular detectives in getting to the bottom of difficult cases. Yes, Hawthorne is sure to remind the reader of Sherlock Holmes, at least in his capabilities, though not his other personal characteristics.

It seems that one spring morning Diana Cowper, a moderately prominent, late middle-aged socialite and mother of a famous actor, visited a funeral parlor [“parlour” in the book; after all, the story takes place in England] and arranged all the details of her own funeral, only to be murdered that very evening. Hmmm. Very suspicious.

As you might imagine, that was no coincidence. Hawthorne sets out to find the killer with author Horowitz in tow. Horowitz interjects his own musings throughout the investigation, but just as his assessment of himself as an author is overblown, so is his opinion of himself as a crime solver. The actual resolution came as surprise to me, and no doubt will to most readers, because the clues (which Hawthorne discloses after the murderer is caught) are very obscure.

Evaluation: This is a relatively entertaining murder mystery, with some nice interplay between the author playing Dr. Watson, and Hawthorne, who represents Holmes. But the mix of reality and fiction is confusing and feels manipulative. If Horowitz had stuck to his crime story instead of inserting self-aggrandizing snippets from his real life, it might have been better.

Rating: 3/5

Published in the U.S. by HarperCollins Publishers, 2018

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5 Responses to Review of “The Word is Murder: An Novel” by Anthony Horowitz

  1. ahhh the cover is so pretty though! I don’t like Sherlock Holmes at all ( don’t ask me why, I have no idea) so I will probably skip this but I have a friend who will surely enjoy this. She also likes it when the authors intervene in the story so that will probably be a plus in her books

  2. Jeanne says:

    I love Sherlock Holmes stories and enjoyed the meta aspect of this novel. As you note, tastes vary.

  3. Lloyd Russell says:

    The only Horowitz I have read is Magpie Murders. And I rated that one a 2.75/4. I would say that’s pretty close to a 3/5. I’m not really interested in reading any more of his books.

    Lloyd (408) 348-4849

    On Wed, May 13, 2020 at 1:01 AM Rhapsody in Books Weblog wrote:

    > rhapsodyinbooks posted: “Note: This review is by my husband Jim. In this > self-referential novel, the author plays himself: that is, the real author > is a character in the book. Moreover, he shamelessly refers to a number of > his previous actual successful publications. ” >

  4. BermudaOnion says:

    Hm, I’m on the fence about this. I’m not sure I’d enjoy the meta aspects.

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