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14 January, 2019

#BookReview :: The Word is Murder (Hawthorn #1) by Anthony Horowitz

SHE PLANNED HER OWN FUNERAL. BUT DID SHE ARRANGE HER OWN MURDER?

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.


I read Magpie Murders by the same author last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. I have also enjoyed reading Moriarty before that. So, it was almost inevitable that I would pick this one up.

When an old lady who is mostly loved by the people who knew her is found murdered at her home it was a surprise. But when it was discovered that she had planned and paid for her own funeral earlier on the same day, it was somewhat of a shocker. The police ask ex-policeman Daniel Hawthorne to investigate the case as a consultant to the force. Hawthorne had previously worked with Anthony Horowitz, again as a consultant, to help the author with some of the police procedures for a TV Show. He asks him to write a book about him. So, Anthony Horowitz follows the case with Hawthorne… What first seems to be an isolated case, soon takes a dangerous turn. Is Hawthorne up to the task?

Hawthorne is an interesting and a quirky character. His methods of detection are classic in the sense that he is more observant than anything. He notices the tiniest of details and can form ‘educated guesses’ based on them which reminded me of Sherlock & Poirot in many ways. But then he also has a darker side that keeps secrets and is abrupt and unpredictable in many ways. The plot was quite interesting and was the key reason that I kept plodding through the book even though I was irritated for almost the first 2/3rd of the book. The murder of Diana Cowper is puzzling in so many ways and then about halfway through the book the twists start appearing giving the story the elements of a whodunit. Even though the book is set in contemporary times, it has a very classic feeling like that of an Agatha Christie novel. 

I wish I could confidently say that this story was about launching Hawthorne to the world. It is the first in a series of Hawthorne series and as such it should have been that. But the author has managed to make it equally, if not more, about himself. When the book started, I found the idea of the author writing himself into a book as the narrator and sidekick for the protagonist was quirky. But I changed my mind soon, at least with this book the idea did not work at all. I now know more about Alex Rider, Foyle’s War and Tintin than I know about Hawthorne. It felt like shameless self promotion in guise of a fiction. There was nothing subtle about the way the author has talked about himself and it kind of felt narcissistic at points ; especially when at the same time he was trying to show the ‘character’ Anthony Horowitz’s frustration towards Hawthorne. Do not get me wrong… I love to hear and read about how authors feel about their books and characters, their writing process and every other kind of trivia about the authors and their books. But I’d rather read about them on their website/blog or newspaper articles etc. I am even open to reading their autobiography/biography for it. But self-promo where people are expecting murder and mystery felt like forced spoon feeding. The book would have been much shorter and fast paced if he had kept his self promo in check. In fact the actual plot picks up and the action/twists happen only at about halfway in. Needless to say, this narration style JUST DID NOT work for me.

I am not sure whether I want to continue with this series. A part of me says that the author maybe done with his self introduction and promotion with what felt like 100-150 pages of information on his life and career in this book. Another part of me says that he might not be done yet. So, only time will tell…



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