The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz is a novel about the violent strangulation of Diana Cowper, who not six hours prior to her death, visits a funeral parlor to plan her own funeral service. Her choices for her memorial include a willow casket, a Sylvia Plath poem, Psalm 34, and the song Eleanor Rigby by The Beatles. Her choices are eccentric. For example, beyond the great tune, have you ever really listened to the lyrics of Eleanor Rigby?
Eleanor Rigby, died in the church
And was buried along with her name
Father McKenzie, wiping the dirt
From his hands as he walks from the grave
No one was saved
All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?
Horowitz gets right in your head with this one. His writing style is precise, organized, and in the first person. This is exactly what I needed in a twisty murder mystery. I focused so hard on Horowitz, that I totally missed the clues. I kept thinking, is he going to talk about his wife more? Am I reading an autobiography?
An ex-detective, Daniel Hawthorne, is brought in to “help” investigate. He’s been fired from the police largely for being an unpleasant jerk. He has malevolence in his eyes, a short temper, and a long list of things that annoy him. However, Scotland Yard doesn’t mind retaining him as consultant for special odd ball cases. This is for one simple reason; Hawthorne is brilliant.
Hawthorne knows Anthony “Tony” Horowitz from some past consulting gigs for detective television shows. He persuades Tony to follow the solving of this specific case, and to write a detective novel featuring himself. Working title, Hawthorne, Investigates. Spielberg thinks ‘it’s not bad,’ so who am I to judge?
Hawthorne claims he needs the cash, and based on his inability to pay for even cab fare, I believe it.
But the thing is, you see -and to be honest, I don’t like to mention this- I’m a bit short. There just aren’t enough people getting murdered. -Hawthorne
Horowitz, probably like most people who’ve met Hawthorne, doesn’t want to work with him. He really rather work with almost anyone but Hawthorne.
Tony’s resolve is weak, and in the end he agrees to the project.
The story is written entirely in the first person as if Anthony Horowitz is actually following Hawthorne around capturing all the details of the crime and investigation. Sometimes Horowitz takes on a Watson like quality trying to find clues that maybe Hawthorne misses (which by the way doesn’t happen). It’s out of competitiveness versus any Watsonesque desire to help.
I think The Real Adventures of Hawthorne and Horowitz would be a better title, but that’s just me.
Either way, this is the mystery to beat this summer. I recommend it highly.
When you get to the end of the actual funeral, be sure to listen to this song. I apologize in advance for getting it stuck in your head, but I can think of no better way to help share in the experience.