The Word is Murder
By Anthony Horowitz
I have read a lot of crime fiction and even as a fan you can be critical of how similar they can be. The formats and storylines can bog down into only a few basic formulas. In a less accomplished author this can lead to a bland book that fades quickly in the memory, but this still leaves room for the better writers. The likes of Anthony Horowitz write traditional crime thrillers, but he has a way of making them entertaining. How do you disguise the fact that a crime story is following a typical path? Write yourself into the book as a main character.
Anthony Horowitz is a successful writer both for television and book form. Between series of Foyle’s War he finds himself at a bit of a loose end so when a scruffy former detective called Daniel Hawthorne asks him to write a True Crime book based on the case he is investigating, Horowitz thinks why not? Perhaps the chases, beatings and stabbings that are about to come would have put him off?
At the core The Word is Murder is a very familiar crime tale. Horowitz wrote Midsomer Murders and it has that same traditional English crime feel to it. We like our murders to somehow feel quaint. The premise is very intriguing. A lady walks into a funeral parlour to order her own service only to end up dead hours later. Was it a coincidence that the two things happened so closely together? A detective like Hawthorne does not believe in coincidences so he decides to investigate.
The book works because the case is solid, but more so because the characters are great. Hawthrone is a dismissive and nasty man who is willing to upset people if it helps the case. He is an excellent investigator who has an eye for detail. In this way that makes him a little like Sherlock Holmes. Holmes has his Watson, and in this case, Watson comes in the form of a semi-autobiographical Horowitz. An author who is a little at a loose end. I really enjoyed the way that Horowitz was able to portray himself as quite flawed, a little indecisive and always questioning if he was getting enough credit.
By having a ‘real’ person at the centre Murder becomes far more enjoyable. Horowitz mixes the real with the fake. His work in television rings true, but some of the shows that are talked about are a mash up of different programmes. The act of balancing his career and a side line as a true detective also gives the book a nice difference. It is not often that a character worries about money and their career as they solve a crime.
Although the book is about murder, this is a gentle crime story. Gruesome in parts, but on the scale of crime fiction it is certainly on the wholesome side. If you like your thrillers gritty and hardboiled, this is not for you. However, if you enjoy a good whodunnit with interesting characters, this book will suit. It is helped immensely by the direction that Horowitz took. By starring himself, it all feels refreshingly different and this disguises well a central tale that is fun, but standard fare.
Written on 14th May 2020 by Sam Tyler .