REVIEW: The Word Is Murder by Anthony Horowitz (Daniel Hawthorne #1)

Series: Daniel Hawthorne

Book Number: 1

Read this book for: author self-insert, reality/fiction blend, UK mystery, amateur detective, consulting detective, unique format

Quick Review: A unique and well-crafted mystery; a must read, especially for fans of Horowitz’s work!


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.

THE WORD IS MURDER is an Anthony Horowitz novel, starring himself as a Watson-figure to fictional detective Daniel Hawthorne, in a murder investigation that blends reality and fiction in a masterful way, while telling a solidly plotted mystery.

On its face, this blend of details about Horowitz’s life, work, and personality, with the creation of the fictional detective and murder is at risk of being unbearably self-centred. It’s a pleasant surprise that it is not. Horowitz does mention points of his career and projects that he has worked on as a means of entry to some parts of the story (and occasionally anecdotally), but it comes in the form of interesting tidbits, rather than bragging. There’s even a scene including a few famous directors that is quite hilarious.

And it’s a seamless blend between the actual facts of his career and the events in this novel. Horowitz has skillfully created a near-seamless blend of the his own creation and recognizable television shows and novels. For example, while he writes this book, he is supposed to be working on a follow-up to THE HOUSE OF SILK.

This book is a mystery he is drawn into by a police advisor on one of the shows he is working on. It is an interesting relationship — many will compare it to Holmes/Watson, but Horowitz’s admiration of Hawthorne is more grudging, although with a similar level of fascination. The plot of the mystery itself is true to form for Horowitz; he writes excellently plotted stories, with enough twists, turns and red herrings to keep any mystery fan hooked (check out his Midsomer Murders television series for more that he has written in this vein!).

I was a bit skeptical about this novel going into it, but after a few chapters I was totally hooked, and could not put it down. Definitely pick up THE WORD IS MURDER for a modern-day Holmes with a curious blend of reality to keep it even more interesting.

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