Narrator: Rory Kinnear
Published by HarperCollins Publishers on June 5, 2018
Length: 9 hrs 2 mins
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New York Times bestselling author of Magpie Murders and Moriarty, Anthony Horowitz has yet again brilliantly reinvented the classic crime novel, this time writing a fictional version of himself as the Watson to a modern-day Holmes.
One bright spring morning in London, Diana Cowper – the wealthy mother of a famous actor - enters a funeral parlor. She is there to plan her own service.
Six hours later she is found dead, strangled with a curtain cord in her own home.
Enter disgraced police detective Daniel Hawthorne, a brilliant, eccentric investigator who’s as quick with an insult as he is to crack a case. Hawthorne needs a ghost writer to document his life; a Watson to his Holmes. He chooses Anthony Horowitz.
Drawn in against his will, Horowitz soon finds himself a the center of a story he cannot control. Hawthorne is brusque, temperamental and annoying but even so his latest case with its many twists and turns proves irresistible. The writer and the detective form an unusual partnership. At the same time, it soon becomes clear that Hawthorne is hiding some dark secrets of his own.
Horowitz is just a little too clever for me. In The Word is Murder, he’s inserted a fictional version of himself as the detective’s sidekick. It’s all very meta and distracting for me. The mystery itself is good, a woman is killed the same day she plans her own funeral. There are several secrets in her past that may have to do with the murder. She also has a famous actor son, which makes the case more interesting to the media.
Horowitz the character is drawn into the case by a detective who consults for the police. Hawthorne can be a bit grating. He’s supposed to be the brilliant, idiosyncratic Holmes-ish character to Horowitz. The characters and mystery are actually well-done. I like the false leads and how to some extent the slightly bumbling Horowitz encourages them. The clues are all there, but the time line falls apart a little. I think I tend to want to like Horowitz’s stories more than I actually do. I like his writing style, I like the way the mystery is designed, I like that The Word is Murder uses some of the familiar mystery formula but twists it just a bit. Overlooking the timing discrepancy, I think I would have liked the book more if the author character had been entirely fictional.
I listened to the audio version and Kinnear did a good job as the narrator. The story is in the first person and I’m afraid I’ll be confused if I ever hear Horowitz’s actual voice, since now, in my head, he sounds like Kinnear’s version of his version of himself. Yeah – a bit too meta for me.
One final comment. How long until our amateur’s, whether they be the main detective or the side-kick, learn not to go out on their own into potentially dangerous situations? At least Horowitz wasn’t wearing high heels.