Genres: Crime, Thriller, Fiction
I received this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
This book comes out today, August 24th 2017!
I have been wondering how to review this book since I started reading it and, now that I’m finished, I am still not sure. The first thing to say is that it’s unique, not your typical murder mystery, and it’s strange. I was not sure if I’d liked it until it was over, and I think a better way to describe is that it definitely left an impression on me. It stuck in my mind and got me googling all through the story. So: yes, I enjoyed it!
A wealthy woman strangled six hours after she’s arranged her own funeral.
A very private detective uncovering secrets but hiding his own.
A reluctant author drawn into a story he can’t control.
What do they have in common?
Unexpected death, an unsolved mystery and a trail of bloody clues lie at the heart of Anthony Horowitz’s page-turning new thriller.
SPREAD THE WORD. THE WORD IS MURDER.
I started reading The Word is Murder expecting it to be similar in style to Magpie Murders, which I enjoyed, although I thought the ending rather predictable. But I was wrong – except for being a murder mystery as well, the similarities between the two books stop there. In this very unique and interesting novel, Horowitz blurred the lines between fiction and non-fiction to the point where I had to do some googling to figure out what was true and what wasn’t.
The plot is really intriguing: a wealthy middle-aged woman arranges her own funeral and hours later, she is murdered. Who killed her? Did she know she was going to be murdered? If not, was organizing her funeral a coincidence? The unemployed detective Hawthorne is short on money, and when he gets hired to investigate the murder of Mrs. Cowper, he decides to turn it into a book – which is where Horowitz (yes, the author) comes in.
But it feels that the murder is only half the story, where the other half is Horowitz’ life & career.
Horowitz talks extensively about his writing process and his career, which sometimes I found interesting and sometimes bothersome. It felt like a book about the process of writing this same book and this meta situation was both intriguing and frustrating – I wished at times that there was less Horowitz and more murder mystery. At the same time, I do enjoy getting to know more about writers and their writing process, but I would then rather read an interview and some articles about it. I don’t want it to be half of a murder mystery book. If you’re a long-term fan of Horowitz, I think you might actually enjoy this very much! He talks extensively about his Alex Rider series, about the script-writing for murder mystery TV series and so on. I particularly wasn’t too keen on such a level of detail such as he presented for that.
The character construction felt a little flat to me. They all seemed like taken from a Catalog of Whodunit Suspects, and even giving them backstories rather extensively didn’t feel enough to give them actual complexity and personalities. They were all likely to have murdered Mrs. Cowper. I found specially the women from the book quite flat. The detective Hawthorne is written to be unlikable, and then we have Horowitz in a Hastings/Watson position of the less intelligent companion who guides the reader away from the clues and into wrong conclusions (no offence at all for the “less intelligent” part meant, those characters are normally quite intelligent, just not as much as the detective, especially to provide a contrast and admiration for said detective).
But never once was I impressed or interested in Hawthorne at all, and both the clues and the process of uncovering the mystery were everywhere, not following the kind of structure I prefer. I like my murder mysteries nice and cleanly presented. This book felt more like a real-case mess, with lots of relevant and irrelevant information. So that is quite the charm of it.
I was going to give it 2 stars, but I honestly think the creativity and originality of the execution, plus the fact that I did not really know who the murderer was until it was revealed, definitely deserved the extra star.
I suspect this book will do very well, and I look forward to reading other books by Anthony Horowitz!
Verdict: This book is an intriguing mix of classic whodunit with non-fiction. If you love reading about writers and how they write, you’ll enjoy this one, especially if you’ve been a fan of Horowitz for a while. It’s quite hard to put a line between fiction and non-fiction on this one and it’s what makes it so unique!