Book Review: The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz

TheWordisMurderAbout the Book

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.

Format: Hardcover Publisher: Century Pages: 416
Publication: 24th Aug 2076 Genre: Crime, Mystery    

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My Review

Whilst reading this book, I imagined Anthony chuckling away as he wrote it and there were many times when I joined in, laughing out loud at his very funny comments – at times self-deprecating, at other times distinctly waspish. For example, visiting the scene of the crime, he observes in the victim’s living room:

‘..the thick-pile carpet with its floral pattern etched out in pink and grey…the crystal chandelier, the comfortable faux-antique furniture, the Coutry Life and Vanity Fair magazines spread out on the coffee table, the books (modern fiction, hardback, nothing by me)…’

And in her bedroom:

‘Only a week ago, a middle-aged woman would have undressed here, standing in front of the full-length mirror, sliding into the queen-sized bed with the copy of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl Who Played With Fire that was lying on the bedside table. Well, at least Mrs Cowper had been spared the slightly disappointing ending.’

Despite his protestation that ‘it worries me to be so very prominent in these pages’, Horowitz writes himself front and centre into the book, acting as a sort of Watson to ex-police detective, Hawthorne, a latter day Sherlock Holmes with all the deductive and observational powers of that literary giant and the same peculiarly limited knowledge of other aspects of life. A running joke is that Hawthorne never introduces Horowitz when they visit witnesses or explains why he’s there – and rarely does anyone ask.

In one of many playful themes, Horowitz constantly reminds the reader that he would have written the book differently if writing a work of fiction but, of course, since this is true crime, he has to stick to the facts.

‘I looked down and noticed a stain on the carpet, marked by two more police numbers. Her bowels had loosened just before she died, the sort of detail I would normally have spared an ITV audience.’

In particular, he’s troubled that he doesn’t know enough about Hawthorne’s back story, personal life and so on to make him an interesting character in the book. After all, Horowitz is the experienced best-selling author and screenwriter, isn’t he? Surely he knows what makes a book work better than anyone?

‘If I had sat down to write an original murder mystery story, I wouldn’t have chosen anyone like Hawthorne as its main protagonist.’

But Hawthorne insists what readers are really interested in isn’t the detective but the crime – ‘The word is murder. That’s what matters.’ (Oh look what he did there, that’s the book’s title.) In fact, as if trying to push his point to the limit Horowitz goes out of his way to make Hawthorne an unlikeable character, giving him some distinctly unpalatable views.

Horowitz revels in his role as unreliable narrator:

‘It occurred to me that I could make up my own rules. Who said that I had to write down everything exactly as it happened?‘

He cheerfully admits that he hasn’t included everything that was in the notes he took of the interviews he and Hawthorne conducted and that much of what he’s included is probably irrelevant. He also makes mischievous claims to have included vital clues in earlier scenes that will have you struggling to resist flipping back pages.

At times, the references to his other works – books, film & TV scripts – felt a little too frequent, even if a lot of these were self-deprecating. I did get the sense sometimes of being a witness to a huge in-joke. For example, his rant about literary agents directed at what appears to be his actual agent.

Having said that, the book is hugely enjoyable and proof, if it were needed, that Anthony Horowitz is a very clever man. The mystery itself is well-plotted and liberally dosed with red herrings and misdirection worthy of the author’s literary heroine, Agatha Christie.

I received an advance reader copy courtesy of NetGalley and publishers, Penguin UK, and chose to give an honest and unbiased review.

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In three words: Clever, funny, self-referential

Try something similar…Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz

AnthonyHorowitzAbout the Author

Anthony Horowitz, OBE is ranked alongside Enid Blyton and Mark A. Cooper as “The most original and best spy-kids authors of the century.” (New York Times). Anthony has been writing since the age of eight, and professionally since the age of twenty. In addition to the highly successful Alex Rider books, he is also the writer and creator of award winning detective series Foyle’s War, and more recently event drama Collision. Among his other television works he has written episodes for Poirot, Murder in Mind, Midsomer Murders and Murder Most Horrid. Anthony became patron to East Anglia Children’s Hospices in 2009.

On 19 January 2011, the estate of Arthur Conan Doyle announced that Horowitz was to be the writer of a new Sherlock Holmes novel, the first such effort to receive an official endorsement from them and to be entitled the House of Silk.

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Blog Tour/Interview: The Dog Walker (The Detective’s Daughter #5) by Lesley Thomson

I’m delighted to host today’s stop on the blog tour for The Dog Walker by Lesley Thomson, the fifth instalment in the bestselling The Detective’s Daughter series. Lesley has kindly agreed to answer some questions about the book, its inspiration and her approach to writing.

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TheDogWalkerCoverAbout the Book

A haunted house, a broken family and a body that has never been found. Stella and Jack must reawaken the secrets of the past in order to solve the mysteries of the present.

January, 1987. In the depths of winter, only joggers and dog walkers brave the Thames towpath after dark. Helen Honeysett, a young newlywed, sets off for an evening run from her riverside cottage. Only her dog returns. Twenty-nine years later, her husband has asked Stella Darnell, a private detective, and her sidekick Jack Harmon, to find out what happened all those years ago. But when the five households on that desolate stretch of towpath refuse to give up their secrets, Stella and Jack find themselves hunting a killer whose trail has long gone cold.

TheDogWalkerBook Facts

  • Format: Hardcover
  • Publisher: Head of Zeus
  • No. of pages: 400
  • Publication date: 6th April 2017
  • Genre: Crime

To purchase The Dog Walker from, click here (link provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme)


Q&A: Lesley Thomson, author of The Dog Walker

Without giving too much away, can you tell me a bit about The Dog Walker?

It’s a story of a place as much as of people. Five cottages near a dark lonely towpath beside the River Thames. The only people who go there at night are dog walkers and joggers. In 1987 a woman disappears and is presumed murdered. The crime is never solved. 29 years on the woman’s husband asks Jack and Stella to find out what happened to her. The story involves lots of scary scenes and a few dogs.

How did you come up with the idea for The Detective’s Daughter series and, in particular, the character of Stella?

A cleaner and a detective share something in common. Both encounter scenes of relative chaos and restore order. Both have a forensic eye for detail and get to enter a lot of different premises, legitimately. However, it struck me as interesting if the cleaner had a link to a detective yet was in contention with that role. Stella wanted to break away from her father so at eighteen refused to join the police. She struck out on her own as a cleaner. But as the series has progressed she grows closer to her dead father and accepts her ‘investigator’ heritage.

The Dog Walker is the fifth book in The Detective’s Daughter series.  What are the challenges of writing a series compared to a standalone novel?

There are not many. It’s a pleasure to revisit characters that develop with each novel. The main challenge is that previous books obviously set ‘facts’ in stone. Then again I like working within some boundaries; I have to dig deeper. Mainly though, a series gives me opportunities to develop less prominent characters, show the changes experience has wrought upon Jack and Stella over a longer story arc. One of these strands is the changing relationship between Stella and Jack and their personal journeys.

Are you a dog walker yourself?

I am. It’s how I came up with the idea. I walk my dog on dark early mornings in empty eerie places. One day it occurred to me that I assumed that the people I’d meet were other dog walkers and that therefore I was safe. But what if I was wrong?

You wrote a short story, The Runaway, about Stella’s childhood.  What was the motivation for this?

It was a chance to open a window into Stella’s past that in a novel would be a distraction from the story. I wanted to explore her early years – the seven year old Stella paid dearly for her parents’ break up – it has contributed to who she has become.

When writing, do you like to have the plot fully worked out or see where the story takes you?

Like Stella I’m a Spreadsheet Queen. I plot out the story, chapter by chapter, including who’s in each chapter, what happens and why. This plan will change as I write. I revisit the spreadsheet and add or takeaway proposed chapters. But I need to know the entire story before I start and this includes the final scene. Within the chapters things will happen that I hadn’t planned.

Do you have a special place to write or any writing rituals?

I write in a tiny study overlooking the Sussex Downs. Even when it’s grey and misty outside I have a long view and lots of light. I start at the same time every day, break for coffee at 11, lunch at 1 and a walk with the dog. Back after about an hour and then work until 5.30. I drink from a particular mug that I never use outside work time (you did ask). I could go on, but best that I don’t….

What other writers do you admire?

Many, but here’s a few: Wilkie Collins, The Brontës, Charles Dickens, Patricia Highsmith, Ruth Rendell and Ngaio Marsh. Contemporary: Elly Griffiths, Tana French, Michael Connelly, Kate Atkinson and Donna Tartt.

I know you teach creative writing.  What is the main piece of advice you give your students?

To get inside the story you’re telling, live and breathe it; believe in its truth. Write the story you want to read, not one you think others would like because how can you cover everyone’s tastes? Above all: keep writing.

What are you working on next?  Are there further cases waiting for Stella?

Yes there are. Stella and Jack move to the countryside to try to solve the murder of a young woman forty years ago. Living in a large old house in the middle of nowhere gradually, as the clues fall into place, they see that the murderer is still out there.

Thank you, Lesley, for those fascinating answers – especially the clues about the next The Detective’s Daughter book!

LesleyThomsonAbout the Author

Lesley Thomson grew up in west London. Her first novel, A Kind of Vanishing, won the People’s Book Prize in 2010. Her second novel, The Detective’s Daughter, was a #1 bestseller and sold over 500,000 copies. Lesley combines writing with teaching creative writing. She lives in Lewes with her partner.

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