Sometimes you want to like a book just so damn much that it feels like you’re the failure when you end up not liking it. So it was for me with this novel.
Now there is no doubt that Horowitz can plot a cracking crime story: Midsomer Murders, Foyle’s War, Magpie Murders are all testimony to that! Genteel and cozy somehow, despite the increasing body count!
In The Word is Murder, Horowitz explores a very Midsomer Murders style puzzle: Diana Cowper enters a funeral director, arranges her own funeral and is murdered on the same day. There is a range of colourful and flamboyant characters and subplots involving a decade old car accident.
So far so good. But Horowitz’ concept – his conceit – is clever, and perhaps clever for the sake of cleverness rather than plot: Horowitz himself is drawn into the investigation and plays Watson to Detective Daniel Hawthorne’s Holmes. Hawthorne makes startling deductions in a very Holmesian style; Horowitz bumbles about in his wake. Hawthorne, the prickly genius, the unlikeable savant, the forcibly retired bigoted cop called in to consult, possibly hiding a vulnerable past behind the brusque mask…it was all very familiar. Too familiar. Bordering onto, slipping into, the realms of cliche.
The snippets of insight into the sets of Midsomer Murders, on which he met Hawthorne as a consultant, or meetings with Peter Jackson and Spielberg about Tintin, or Foyle’s War are interesting and at times genuinely funny, but the transition from there to the fictional detecting jarred for me. It was simply inconceivable. Especially as the details of the arrangements emerge: the bizarre monetary arrangements aside, the re-writing of Chapter One and critiques by Hawthorne would have torn the relationship apart.
The plot continues despite the increasing tension between the partners, both of whom come across as fairly unlikeable, sullen and childish in places. It is spiced up by a ridiculous and comically farcical funeral, another more grisly murder and a few trips out of London.
It was enjoyable enough to read. But, I fear, not quite as original or thoughtful as Horowitz would have liked.
Plot / Pace: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Date: 19th April 2018