The Word is Murder
Author: Anthony Horowitz
Genre: Detective, Mystery, Adult
2.5 out of 5 – I begrudge giving Horowitz lower, but I’m not going to be picking up this book again, and I’m not going to be recommending it either. For these reasons, taking in to account anything good in this, a 2.5 is all I can give.
One the same day that she arranges her funeral, a woman is murdered. That is the start of the murder investigation that forms the basis of the new novel by Anthony Horowitz. Yes, Horowitz, the writer is asked to join with Hawthorne, the detective, to follow him while he investigates this oddly coincidental murder, and to write a book about it as he goes. What follows, is Horowitz’s account of the investigation, as he comes to terms with what it means to work with Hawthorne and balance his own writing career.
I don’t have one, that is part of the problem….
I actually had to go away from this book for a while after finishing it. I needed to think carefully about how I wanted to review it.
Honestly, I really enjoy Horowitz’s books. I still remember reading a rewriting of The Maltese Falcon when I was little, and this has hooked me ever since. I also think that the Magpie Murders was a really ingenious crime novel.
But I just didn’t manage to like this one. I really wanted to, and read this the moment that I picked it up because I was so sure that I would like it, but in the end, it just didn’t work out that way. So I guess I should now get into why I didn’t like it?
Horowitz writes about an unlikeable detective. I know that because he tells us this. Hawthorne is unlikeable even Horowitz (within the book) doesn’t like him, so how are we supposed to! The problem is, I really didn’t like him. His ability to make guesses and just intuitively know things didn’t impress me, it just seemed annoying and convenient. He acted like a bumbling brute, without skill or finesse, and we learn nothing about him. This isn’t a surprise, Horowitz tells us we are going to learn nothing. But seriously?!
As for Horowitz, within the book, he is the Watson to this Sherlock-style detective. Or so it seems. Except I just don’t think it works out that way! Watson actually likes Sherlock. He may get irritated by him, but ultimately, he likes and admires him, and Sherlock cares about him too, which makes their relationship a joy to read. That is not the case here. Similarly, Sherlock provides exposition for Watson, but the exposition in this book is so forced that it is farcical. Finally, Watson himself is likeable…
I cringe as I say this, but I just did not like ‘Horowitz’ in this novel. The character seemed self-absorbed and petty. The constant focus on money, instead of being an interesting tidbit, became cheap. The overemphasis on this throughout the novel really made me dislike the character more, and the constant self-promotion made me nearly cry. Some of these elements would have enhanced the text, some mention of these things would have added depth and made the reader really understand the character and why he was so annoyed with Hawthorne, but all of these elements and the consistent emphasis on them made it a struggle to put the book down.
Ultimately, the murder seems like a second or even third thought in this book and after Magpie Murders that is so disappointing, I don’t think I can even explain how truly gutted I am. At first, the premise was so intriguing and the style so interesting, that I posted updates on Twitter, and discussed this on-going read repeatedly. Halfway through, I stopped speaking about this book, and have put off writing this review because I just want to forget it existed. Why a three? On reflection, maybe it deserves less. Others will like it, I’m sure, and it’s interesting in terms of the metafictional style, I’ll leave it as a three for now, but I think it’s probably more of a 2.5.
If you like this…
Hmm, what could I suggest for this book? Honestly, I’m going to suggest Magpie Murders, because despite me not liking The Word is Murder, I loved Magpie Murders. It is another murder mystery, with a metafiction twist, that takes a look at the literary world (publishing rather than writing) and I believe it is done perfectly. Magpie Murders is everything that The Word is Murder is not.