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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.

A masterful and tricky mystery that springs many surprises, The Word is Murder is Anthony Horowitz at his very best.

400 pages, Hardcover

First published August 24, 2017

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About the author

Anthony Horowitz

378 books15.7k followers
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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5 stars
15,749 (25%)
4 stars
30,202 (48%)
3 stars
13,822 (22%)
2 stars
2,242 (3%)
1 star
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 7,337 reviews
Profile Image for Yun.
513 reviews19.8k followers
April 11, 2022
Sometimes a book shows up on my radar and its premise is so unusual and so intriguing, there is just no way I can pass it up. That's what happened with The Word is Murder.

A woman goes to a funeral home and arranges her own funeral. A few hours later she is murdered. In steps detective Hawthorne to try to catch the killer. But he wants someone to write about the crimes he solves, so he contacts Horowitz (the author of this book!) to be his scribe. And that's how Horowitz gets tangled up in this funny business.

The mystery itself has all the elements of a clever whodunnit, with a short but interesting list of suspects, lots of secrets slowly uncovered, and plenty of red herrings. It was great fun to follow along and to take a crack at solving it as the clues come in. The solution ends up being satisfying, and looking back, there were plenty of clues I should've picked up on but totally missed.

The part I was less sure about is Horowitz writing himself into the book. On the one hand, it's a clever way to make the story feel more real. He includes lots of details of his actual life, so the real blends in seamlessly with the fiction. But on the other hand, at times he includes a bit too much, so it comes across like he's either trying very hard to convince the reader that this is real or he's trying to promote himself. Still, since this is the first book in the series, it makes sense that there is more focus on the backstory, and I imagine that will lessen in the future.

Horowitz is fast becoming one of my favorite authors for coming up with the most intriguing premises for his mysteries. His Susan Ryeland series has the mystery within a mystery format, with clues for the outer mystery hidden within the inner mystery. And this series has him writing himself into it as the bumbling Watson to Hawthorne's Sherlock. I cannot wait to see what Horowitz comes up with next.

See also, my thoughts on:
#2. The Sentence Is Death
#3. A Line To Kill

Magpie Murders
Moonflower Murders

Profile Image for Liz.
2,017 reviews2,517 followers
August 29, 2018

Ok, so I knew the premise of this book. Author inserts himself into the story. But how it would be handled was the big question. Well, let me tell you. Horowitz is bloody brilliant! I loved how this is some crazy mix of mystery, memoir, essay on how to write, how a tv show is created, all rolled into one.

And his ability to paint a character! He had me truly wondering who was real and who was imagined. That’s how vivid his portrayals are.

Horowitz was authorized by the Conan Doyle family to write a Sherlock Holmes novel a few years back. It’s interesting, because my impression was that Hawthorne is a modern day Holmes. I had absolutely no idea who the murderer was This kept me engaged throughout.

This works beautifully as an audio book. You have the sensation of being in a conversation with the author. One of the best audio books I’ve ever listened to. Highly recommend.

PS- of course, based on this book I had to check out Injustice. I can recommend it as well.

Profile Image for Julie .
4,025 reviews58.9k followers
July 25, 2019
The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz is a 2017 Harper publication.

A clever, droll, and highly entertaining murder mystery!

Former Detective Inspector Hawthorne has approached Anthony Horowitz- yes, the real author is a character in the story- to write a book about him. Although dubious, Horowitz agrees to do so. The pair wind up teaming up together, Holmes and Watson style, to solve a puzzling murder mystery.

Diana Cowper plans her own funeral and later that same day she is found strangled to death. What are the odds? The suspects, as it turns out, are more plentiful than one might have guessed. While Horowitz regales us with tidbits from the world of publishing and his frustration with Hawthorne, the investigation pulls him further away from his usual routine, as he often forgets he’s the writer of Hawthorne’s book and not his crime solving sidekick.

Told from Horowitz’s first -person perspective, the reader is schooled about the life of an author, while he takes every available opportunity to promote himself and his work along the way.

I’ve never read anything quite like it before. Despite the somber circumstances, I found myself laughing out loud on more than one occasion. The author’s tone is perfect and absolutely spot on, albeit tongue in cheek- mostly.

This is an ingenious whodunit, which is perfect, all on its own, but Horowitz’s narrative and unabashed owning of his healthy ego gives the story a certain charm amid the darker themes.

Despite the unlikeliness, Horowitz and Hawthorne made a pretty good detective team. I never would have guessed the outcome and was delighted by the clever and carefully constructed plot. If only there were more mysteries like this one!!

Obviously, I enjoyed this book immensely! It’s one of the best murder mysteries I’ve read since…. Well, perhaps since ‘Magpie Murders”- another plug for Horowitz- as if he needs any promotional help from me.

This book was yet another great novel that slid down my hopeless TBR list and sat collecting virtual dust in my ‘currently reading’ folder for well over a year. The upside to that is that now I don’t have to wait for the second book to come out. It’s already on my Kindle- hopefully it won’t take me another two years to get around to reading it. 😁

5 stars
Profile Image for Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader.
2,121 reviews30.2k followers
June 5, 2018
4.5 innovative and page-turning stars to The Word is Murder! 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟.5 (rounded up)

My first book from Horowitz was an indulgent and clever mystery I tried my hardest to solve!

A woman has already planned her own funeral, but when she is found dead six hours after she finalizes the arrangements, it has the police wondering if she planned her own death, too?

An extremely private, private detective, Daniel Hawthorne, is skilled at solving crimes by blowing up secrets and has a wealth of secrets of his own.

And somehow, (this is in the synopsis, so not a spoiler!), the author is drawn into the story as well! The back and forth between Hawthorne and Horowitz was shrewd and witty and brought the whole story together for me.

The Word is Murder reminded me of the game of Clue. Growing up, my poor parents and brother had to indulge me in endless games of Clue because my analytical nature was drawn to it. In the same way, I had the best time putting the intricate pieces together to try to solve this crime, and I was absorbed in every second of it! Bravo, Anthony Horowitz! You know how to play your cards!

Thank you to Anthony Horowitz, Harper/Harper Collins, and Edelweiss for the ARC. The Word is Murder will be released on June 5, 2018.

My reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com

Profile Image for Holly  B (Short break!).
812 reviews1,861 followers
January 17, 2019
Who plans their own funeral 6 hours before their murder?

I loved playing detective alongside Ex-DI Hawthorne and trying to make sense of the growing trail of leads.  What was the motive?  Did the victim know she was in danger? What is going on? Who left an important clue ? Did I catch that clue? Nope

Horowitz plants himself in the story as well. He is a fictional character working with the detective as a writer to document the case as a true crime novel.

This was pretty entertaining and I flew through it, trying to spy the murderer the entire way through. Hawthorne was like the master murder solver and Horowitz was always questioning his tactics and getting on his nerves.

A good old-fashioned murder mystery with a dash of modern day life to give it a contemporary feel. I like a twisty who-dunnit!

Publication on June 5, 2018 / Review will also post to my blog

Profile Image for Annet.
570 reviews722 followers
September 10, 2018
When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions... - Hamlet

Yes, now I know I like this writer. The writer also of Magpie Murders, which is widely read across Goodreads. This, again, is a great crime mystery, with antiheroes Daniel Hawthorne, a recalcitrant detective, and his sidekick Anthony (would that be Anthony Horowitz himself.....).
What I understand is that this is the first of a series of crime novels starring these two gentlemen. And I'm already looking forward to the next.
Great writing, entertaining story, relaxing, witty read. Quality crime writing.
Four stars plus, great book!

Here's the story outline (from bol.com this time):
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.
January 26, 2023
The Word is Murder, the game is revenge, and the punishment is death!!!

And now we have a book inspired by the famous detective duo, Holmes and Watson, as Daniel Hawthorne takes on an accomplice to transcribe the details of a murder for a true crime novel. In doing so Horowitz writes himself into a story of murder, treachery, and revenge, as he himself becomes the accomplice. And the word we have for such as imaginative collaboration and plot, is ‘ingenious’ !!!.

The Plot

Drawn to the world that Holmes and Watson inhabited, the gas lamps, the growlers rattling over cobblestones and the swirling London fog, Horowitz writes himself into the novel by accepting a commission to work with ex-Police detective Daniel Hawthorne in solving a crime where two coincidences spell of a planned murder and two deaths, involving a mother and son, spell of a deadly game.

And what they know is this !!!. A woman walks into a funeral parlour, in South Kensington, and arranges her own funeral, right down to the last detail. And on the same day, six hours later, she is found strangled in her own home. A woman who did not have an enemy in the world and liked by everyone.

However, as the investigation gets under way, the duo begin to realise that Diane is not the person they thought she was because Mrs Cowper did have enemies and pulled out of a failed film production on the same day as her murder and a past transgression that keeps enemies looming large. She was acquitted by a judge who found her innocent of running over a child, but the judge was also an investor, and the accident was seen by a number of people.

Review and Comments

The narrative despite being peppered with twists and turns, murder and a thread of violence and deceit is elevated with a more interesting thread to the book and that is the unlikely pairing of this detective team. With all the customary wit, one liners and humorous dialogue, you would expect from Sherlock Holmes, the same temperamental relationship is played out in the pairing of Horowitz and Hawthorne, as two masters go to work.

The characterisation and plot is superb as we are also introduced to a gallery of suspects as Horowitz makes them all capable of murder and each with motive, whilst he is placed in the middle of the plot trying to write their story. An excellent book with a plot that is captivating, absorbing and exceptionally well thought out, and all packaged up in a book that is extremely well written. If I was to offer one criticism the book lost my interest a bit in the middle and dragged for a few pages but then picked up its rhythm again and I was totally absorbed in its story until I finished.

And the word is 'Imaginative'.

4/5 rounded down to 4
Profile Image for Jaline.
444 reviews1,606 followers
December 10, 2018
This novel is weird, wacky, and on the wild side of wonderful. The author, Anthony Horowitz, did not only write this book, he is in this book. In fact, he is writing the book more or less as it is happening. I think.

All those W’s in my first sentence aside, this is not a funny book – although there is humour in it at times. What it is: deviously clever and fiendishly brilliant. There are accidental deaths, murders, and a great deal of confusion because there are so many linked parts in the chain of events. Yet, just as we see another link up ahead, without warning, the link that initially looked so solid turns out to be fragile. Broken, in fact.

I was delighted to read about how the author came to follow an ex-detective all over London and other parts of England as a documentarian. Instead of on film, though, this documentary is written – the detective wants the book to be about his solving this particular case. There are also references to work Anthony Horowitz had previously done – like his children’s book series, his television script writing, and my favourite – references to The House of Silk which I had just read a couple of weeks ago.

As always, Anthony Horowitz kept the fast pace of this mystery story sprinting along. There are clues along the way, and even knowing the significance of some of them, it is still difficult to put everything together without one last piece of information that we find out when it is almost too late.

Is everything in this book true? Maybe yes, maybe no. In the end, each reader will have to decide that for him or herself, and frankly, it doesn’t even matter. It is simply a smashingly good read that knocked my socks off – in winter, no less. (Here, not in the book). I only have one querulous question: Mr. Horowitz, can you please write more books, only faster??
Profile Image for Paromjit.
2,599 reviews24.7k followers
August 9, 2019
I finished this a while ago, but I have been avoiding commenting on it until now. For me, I thought this was going to be a slam dunk, a book I was practically sure of enjoying, after all, I had loved reading some of Horowitz's other books so much. Then there is the fact that so many of my goodreads friends had loved it so much. Normally when a book refuses to connect with me early on, I stop reading, but I persevered thinking at some point it would work out. Sadly not to be, I couldn't get into either of the main characters, they bored me and the storyline failed to hold my interest. No doubt countless others will enjoy this series, I am just not one of them.
Profile Image for Sujoya (theoverbookedbibliophile).
425 reviews931 followers
March 1, 2023

Plot: 4/5; Audio Narration: 5/5

Six hours after Diana Cowper, mother of famous actor Damien Cowper visits a funeral parlor to discuss plans for her own funeral, she is killed in her own home. Coincidence, or not? Was she aware of a threat to her life or was it something else entirely?

Daniel Hawthorne, a former inspector with Metropolitan Police Force, is engaged as a private consultant on the case. Hawthorne convinces author Anthony Horowitz to write a book about him and his case, a fifty-fifty agreement that has Hawthorne tagging along with the seasoned detective while he investigates. Horowitz is a bit out of his depth (understandably so) when it comes to studying murder scenes, but is determined to hold his own. Hawthorne has his own inimitable style – he is smart, perceptive but secretive, not quite people-friendly and more than a bit curt with Horowitz who is often at his wit’s end trying to get Hawthorne to share his thoughts on the case, let alone himself. Writing a book about him isn’t going to be an easy task!

We follow the duo as they work their way through a series of leads and red herrings as they investigate multiple suspects - people from Diana’s past and present who appear to have a motive. But as the narrative progresses, a shocking turn of events changes the trajectory of the investigation.

Cleverly plotted, evenly paced, and reminiscent of classic detective stories with an ending that is almost impossible to predict, The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz is an absorbing read. I was a bit wary of the fact that the author writes himself as one of the main characters in the plot, but I must say he does so quite effectively and the dynamic between Horowitz and Hawthorne makes for some truly entertaining moments. The mystery was well-crafted and held my interest as the plot progressed. The final reveal truly surprised me, which is always a good thing. I did feel, however, that the segments leading up to the collaboration between the duo, could have been a tad shorter, but this in no way detracted from my overall reading experience. I paired my reading with the incredible audio narration by Rory Kinnear. Immersion reading at its best!

With its fluid narrative, interesting characters and a solid mystery at its core, The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz is a thoroughly enjoyable read. This is my first time reading this author but definitely not my last. I look forward to reading the other books in the series.
Profile Image for Candi.
614 reviews4,633 followers
September 27, 2018
4.5 stars

"Death for me had always been little more than a necessity, something that moved the plot on. But standing in the bedroom of a woman who had so recently died, I could feel it right there beside me."

When author Anthony Horowitz is asked to write a book about a former detective inspector now turned private investigator, he quickly learns that solving a crime is much different when you find yourself smack dab in the middle of it. Investigator Daniel Hawthorne approaches the renowned writer with a deal to go ‘fifty-fifty’ on a book about his work life, beginning with a rather peculiar murder of a 60-something-year-old widow. What makes this particular case so intriguing is this: "Diana Cowper had planned her funeral and she was going to need it. She was murdered about six hours later that same day." Rather reluctantly, Horowitz accepts the offer and what follows is a very clever and highly entertaining story! It is a compelling mystery mixed with an interesting reflection on the process of both book writing as well as television script writing. You see, the real Anthony Horowitz inserts himself right into the pages of this book! One could also say that The Word is Murder is a brilliant mix of both fictional and non-fictional writing!

This book flows so smoothly, at a nice brisk pace. It’s one that you could easily read in a day or two if you were so inclined. There are plenty of clues, lots of suspects, and a good dose of wit. Horowitz and Hawthorne don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye when it comes to novel writing or crime solving; as a result, the banter between the two made for some good laughs. Hawthorne is a very private man, making Horowitz’s job rather difficult. After all, a reader wants to know the nitty gritty details about the protagonist’s life, right? At first, we really only note that he is a rather unlikable fellow, having been dismissed from the Metropolitan Police Force in London for reasons that are somewhat vague. Hawthorne believes the reader only needs to know about the crime, the victim, the suspects; he does not want to share his private life with the world. Horowitz, however, wants to understand what makes him tick, where he lives, and what got him thrown off the force. This is what the reader wants!

"They’re not called murder victim stories. They’re not called criminal stories. They’re called detective stories. There’s a reason for that. I’m taking a big risk here. If you solve this crime right now, I won’t have anything to write about. Worse than that, if you don’t solve it at all, it’ll be a complete waste of time. So getting to know you matters. If I know you, if I can find something that makes you more… human, at least that’s a start. So you can’t just brush aside every question I ask you. You can’t hide behind this wall."

This is very much like a classic mystery, à la Sherlock Holmes style, despite the contemporary setting. Hawthorne only shares so much of his discoveries and theories with Horowitz, much like we would have seen with Watson; therefore the reader is fed only little morsels at a time. Never fear though, as we are told early on in the novel, the clues are all there if you are sharp enough to fit them together successfully. I was not! But that’s okay; the fun is in the attempt to work it all out!

This was my third adult novel penned by the talented Anthony Horowitz. They have all been great diversions paired with excellent writing. Both Magpie Murders and The House of Silk are on my favorites list. This one comes very close to both, but those wowed me just a wee bit more. I would not hesitate to recommend any of the three if you are a mystery lover! I understand there is a second in the series coming out in November, and I can’t wait to grab it and follow more of Hawthorne and Horowitz’s escapades in that one. I hope we can unravel some more of Hawthorne’s secrets next!

"The relationship between an author and his main protagonist is a very peculiar one."
September 6, 2018
4.5 stars!

Clever! Brilliant! I don’t think I will ever write a review for this author’s work without those two words included.

Anthony Horowitz has such a unique way of narrating his novels. This one is done in first person, with Horowitz himself as the main character – ingenious! This is marketed as “a masterful and tricky mystery” which sums it up perfectly!

This novel revolves around a tragic and shocking murder that happens six hours after the victim plans her own funeral. Ex-detective, Daniel Hawthorne, is helping the police investigate this unique case. Hawthorne reaches out to Horowitz to request that he accompany him on his investigation to document the case as well as write a sort of biography about Hawthorne. I loved the dynamic between Hawthorne and Horowitz! They made such an entertaining pair!

If you haven’t read Horowitz before, know you are in for a treat with his unique writing style. Last year I read and LOVED Magpie Murders and while I would say that Magpie remains my most favourite, this novel is a very close second!

This was a Traveling Friends read.

The Word Is Murder is AVAILABLE NOW!!
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,343 reviews4,864 followers
June 22, 2021

3.5 stars

This book is structured like a 'Sherlock Holmes' story in which Dr. Watson accompanies Sherlock Holmes on an investigation, then chronicles the case.

In "The Word is Murder" Anthony Horowitz (ostensibly) accompanies detective Daniel Hawthorne on an investigation, then writes a book (this one) about the case.


As the novel opens, wealthy middle-aged Londoner Diana Cowper goes to an undertaker to plan her funeral, so - when the time comes - it will go off exactly as she wants.....with her chosen hymns and music. The funeral will occur much sooner than expected, though, because Diana is strangled in her apartment a few hours later.

Diana's death, which is clearly a murder, draws extra attention for two reasons: a decade ago Diana's car hit twin eight-year-old boys, Jimmy and Jeremy Godwin, killing Jimmy and leaving Jeremy brain damaged.

In addition, Diana is the mother of the famous actor Damian Cowper - who's currently a big sensation in America.

The cops in London's Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) need Diana's case solved fast. So an MPS official prevails on a former police detective, Daniel Hawthorne - a brilliant sleuth who was fired for bad behavior - to 'consult' on the investigation.

Hawthorne agrees, and - to make an extra buck - asks writer Anthony Horowitz to shadow his probe and pen a book, for which they'll share the profits 50:50. Horowitz, author of the 'Alex Rider' series for children and several mysteries for adults - as well as the creator of the TV series 'Foyle's War' and 'Midsomer Murders' - is reluctant to embark on a non-fiction tome, but agrees in the end.

Anthony Horowitz

Horowitz is immediately impressed with Hawthorne's ability to wrest information from almost imperceptible clues - just like Sherlock Holmes.

However, the writer is put off by the gumshoe's personality, since Hawthorne is abrupt, rude, intolerant, and secretive. Moreover, Hawthorne never picks up the check for drinks, meals, train tickets, taxi fares, etc.....seriously draining Horowitz's wallet.

In any case, Horowitz accompanies Hawthorne as he runs around questioning people, including: the undertaker and his assistant - who were the last people to see Diana alive; Judith and Alan Godwin - who are still distraught about their dead/injured sons.....and think Diana got off too lightly; the judge who gave Diana a slap on the wrist; witnesses to the automobile accident ten years ago; Diana's actor son Damian - a conceited snob who abuses his girlfriend; and others.

Hawthorne constantly warns Horowitz to just shut up and take notes during interviews, but the author - who thinks of himself as more than just a tape recorder - throws in the occasional question anyway.....which seriously annoys the detective. In fact - unlike Watson and Holmes - Horowitz and Hawthorne have a very contentious relationship. At one point, Horowitz tries to skive off an interview because he has an important business meeting with legendary filmmakers Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson. Hawthorne blithely interrupts the conference and drags Horowitz off, much to the writer's chagrin.

In the end the crime is solved and Horowitz and Hawthorne warm up to each other a tad; in fact Hawthorne pays the writer a small compliment, to Horowitz's immense pleasure.

The story is structured like an intricate puzzle, and I didn't guess the murderer until the end. I enjoyed this well-written novel, and highly recommend it to fans of traditional murder mysteries. 👍


FYI: In an interview with NPR, Anthony Horowitz said that inserting himself into the book as a character was an attempt to 'turn the murder mystery format upside down' and that he was very careful not to give himself the best lines, but to give them to Daniel Hawthorne instead. Horowitz also notes that his mysteries are an homage to Agatha Christie, but he has the advantage of being able to insert modern technology, like texts and emails. I've finished several of Horowitz's mysteries, and look forward to reading more.

You can follow my reviews at https://reviewsbybarbsaffer.blogspot....
Profile Image for carol..
1,532 reviews7,857 followers
January 26, 2020
One thing you can say about horowitz, he certainly likes to base his mysteries around a Catchy Idea. In this book, he's written himself into the story, biographical details and all, but because I'm not a horowitz Fan, versed in his history and genre, I found it more distracting than intriguing. It left me wondering how much was fact, how much fiction, how much autobiography and how much artistic license. Perhaps this is part of his intention; an odd genre mash-up of mystery, memoir, fiction, and craft advice. 

There's no doubt, Horowitz is a highly competent writer whose skill is far above the workmanship level of the normal thriller. Written in first person, in his role as himself, I enjoyed the bits of writing craft he discusses with the detective, Hawthorne, as when he tries to explain that saying 'a bell rang' when a door is opened is mental short-hand for the reader/viewer to think of an old-fashioned kind of establishment. At times, however, he becomes quite intrusive into the story; less of a Doctor Watson/Arthur Hastings than perhaps Dr. Sheppard (Murder of Dr. Ackroyd).

"It's easy for me to remember the evening that Diana Cowper was killed. I was celebrating with my wife: dinner at Moro in Exmouth Market and quite a lot to drink. That afternoon I had pressed the Send button on my computer, emailing my new novel to the publishers, putting eight months' work behind me." (from Chapter Two, 'Hawthorne')

Part of the trouble, perhaps, is that the characters were drawn well enough to be not particularly likable, but not well enough to be redeemable. We both thought the mystery wasn't that compelling; I mean, it was interesting enough, as was Tony's reaction to it, but perhaps because the pace of solving the crime kept getting interrupted by personal issues and digressions (Tony's Hollywood meetings, his obsession with finding out more about Hawthorne), it didn't feel like a race to finish, even after More Stuff started happening. 

And that ending. Oh, that ending drove me bonkers, because it relied on one of the worst genre tropes--tv tropes--there is. We also end with not learning much about Hawthorne, for all Tony's attempts at 'investigation,' but we do know too much more about Tony. I will give him credit; he was willing to allow himself to be perceived as an insecure and obtuse person. Dr. Watson indeed.

This was the second of a buddy read with Dan 2.Ω and one where we both had hopes of success. We had read Magpie Murders with good results and saw some fair ratings on this as well. Overall, I'd say it scores above House of Suns for far better writing and better characterization... although I can't say that I liked the characters any more. The mystery was originally moderately acceptable in the microscopic analysis, although in the larger psychoanalysis, I'm not sure it holds. Horowitz is a better writer, so this was far easier to get through, with many scenes that were easy to visualize.

Two and a half stars, rounding down for that ending.
Note--I had scored a cheap trade edition at Half Price Books. And it'll be passed on. Not worthy of my library space.

Many thanks to Dan 2.Π
Profile Image for JanB .
1,143 reviews2,491 followers
September 5, 2018
4.5 stars. What an original and clever mystery! Diana Cowper, the widowed mother of a famous actor, pre-plans her funeral, unaware that she would be needing their services in just a few short hours when she is brutally murdered. Hawthorne is an ex-cop working as a private investigator who is brought on board to investigate the crime.

This is, in many ways, a classic whodunit Agatha Christie style murder mystery, which happens to be a favorite genre of mine. What makes this book different and unique is the author is a character in his own book and the narrative is a fun blend of fact and fiction. In the story, the novelist Horowitz is presented with the opportunity to follow along with Hawthorne as he works the case and write a book about it.

They are an unlikely pair and the banter and dynamic between these two characters is most enjoyable. Horowitz is the Watson-type sidekick to Hawthorne’s Sherlock Holmes. Hawthorne is brilliant but difficult and very little is known about his personal life, while Horowitz interjects into the story tidbits about a writer's life while writing a mystery novel, which adds to the fun.

I loved last year’s Magpie Murders and with this book the author has made his way onto my favorites list. This is a highly readable, well-written, and well-constructed mystery with the proper clues and red herrings, and a surprising conclusion. Well-done! I read this with the Traveling Friends reading group and one of us (not me!) gets the Nancy Drew prize for figuring out the murderer.

I was happy to read this is book one of a new series. I can’t wait for the next installment!

*Many thanks to Edelweiss, the publisher, and the author for an advanced copy of this book.
Profile Image for Jessica Woodbury.
1,602 reviews2,039 followers
March 9, 2018
Usually when I realize I am not liking a book much I will stop reading it. And I almost stopped reading this one. I can tell you the exact page I was on when I had that NOPE moment. At that point I pulled up the Goodreads page and I was, well, flummoxed. This book's page is stacked with glowing reviews. And I knew from the success of MAGPIE MURDERS that this one will be popular, so I decided to keep going to see if the book would redeem itself. It did not. So I am here to potentially save a few other readers from my fate with what will hopefully be my one not-great review of the year.

The main problem here is the device, where the writer is asked to accompany a detective to write a true crime book about a crime he is in the middle of trying to solve. It is a particularly ridiculous device, and I've mostly seen it on television where it works better because we never actually have to see what the writer will write. Because this is not how writing works! No writer would do this! And having to read the product of it is not particularly fun.

I was willing to give Horowitz some leeway because he was rather fun and smart in his use of writers and publishing in MAGPIE but he quickly lost me. The main device bothered me constantly and would have been reason enough to quit this book, but there is something even worse: Horowitz himself.

Usually when someone writes a fictionalized version of themselves, they actively make this person different, they often create a whole separate persona so you can see it is not really them. I have no idea if Horowitz did that or not, all I know is that the Horowitz on the page is the worst. He talks about himself all the time, even though the things he talks about aren't relevant to the mystery we're supposed to be here to solve. He drops celebrity names, he is not shy about his massive success, and I actually hated him by the end of the book. The whole story would have made much more sense with a fictional struggling writer who really needs this gig. With Horowitz the whole thing is just off.

Horowitz's sleuth, Hawthorne, is not much to write home about. The main thing to know about Hawthorne is that he is unlikable. He is a Holmes-ian detective, working almost entirely through observation. This is never my personal fave, but I would tolerate it if Hawthorne had more to offer on the page. He doesn't. There's no rapport or camaraderie between the two that makes it worth your time.

The plot is fine, pretty run of the mill, was expecting something more interesting. That's why I kept reading, I figured Horowitz had to have something better up his sleeve. But he didn't. To me, it feels like Horowitz missed the mark pretty hard, not understanding what it was about MAGPIE that made it both a throwback and a new invention. Here he's trying to add a modern twist but it doesn't work at all, and not much else does either.
Profile Image for Susan.
2,639 reviews598 followers
August 3, 2021
Having greatly enjoyed, “Magpie Murders,” I was thrilled to receive, “The Word is Murder,” to review. Author Anthony Horowitz has shown that he is adept at writing many different genres of books, but it is clear that he was certainly meant to be writing anything but this particular novel. For, you see, Mr Horowitz himself is very much the narrator of this novel and he tells the story as it happens; which is a clever literary device and throws the reader immediately into the action.

In his varied career, we learn that Anthony Horowitz has written many television scripts and one of the advisors he consulted was a former detective inspector with the Met; a murder specialist, since thrown out of the force, named Hawthorne. Hawthorne is something of a throwback, with his shabby suits, secretive air and unpleasant prejudices. However, he also does consulting on unusual cases and he asks the author to accompany him on his most recent investigation and write a book about him.

Horowitz should be concentrating on a script he needs to show to Stephen Spielberg and Peter Jackson (the scene involving these two men is worth reading the book for alone), plus he has other projects clamouring for his attention. Still, he finds himself drawn into the strange murder of Diana Cowper. A widow in her sixties, Diana Cowper planned her own funeral before being murdered only six hours later. Mother to famous actor, Damian Cowper, involved with the theatre herself, wealthy and well connected, it seems too much of a coincidence that she walked into a funeral parlour to discuss her own burial on the day she was killed. Hawthorne and Horowitz immediately begin to investigate her life; including a tragedy she was involved in nearly ten years previously.

This is a wonderfully unusual crime novel. Horowitz’s voice is ever present in this book, as he bemoans the fact that Hawthorne is calling all the shots, yet begrudgingly admires the fact that he always seems able to uncover the secrets beneath the facts. There is an intriguing plot, lots of twists, some wonderful characters and Hawthorne himself, who I would love to see in another book. For, although Horowitz spends much of this book worrying about whether anyone will read this, he needn’t have been concerned. If I loved Horowitz’s previous crime novel, I have to say that I adored this. I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, for review.
Profile Image for Tucker.
385 reviews106 followers
November 14, 2019
I hope “The Word is Murder” was as much fun for Anthony Horowitz to write as it was to read. I was not familiar with Horowitz until I read “Magpie Murders” last year and was totally captivated by his reinvention of an Agatha Christie style mystery. In the ”The Word is Murder,” Horowitz reimagines a Holmes and Watson mystery, with a fictionalized version of Horowitz as Watson. I’ve read novels where authors inserted themselves as characters in their books, but the manner in which Horowitz does so is clever and entertaining. Many of the details about Horowitz in the book are based on his actual life and career. And he’s not the only character with some basis in fact. Part of the fun of the book was trying to guess what actual famous person or persons Horowitz had in mind when he created various characters. While the characters were a significant part of the enjoyment I had from this novel, the mystery was top-notch and ingeniously written. I think I’m a fairly astute and observant reader, so I was convinced at different points throughout the book that I knew who the murderer was. And it wasn’t until the very end of the book that I realized how wrong my previous identifications were. “The Word is Murder” was a delight from start to finish and I was thrilled to learn that it's not a stand-alone but the first book in a series. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,219 reviews2,050 followers
June 21, 2018
Horowitz writes rather unusual books due I guess to his other career as a script writer. In 'The Word is Murder' he includes himself in his own fiction, sometimes standing aside to report on events and at other times being part of the story. It works well.

Apart from Horowitz himself the main character is an ex detective who is called in to help when a murder is too difficult for the police to solve. He is a bit of a Sherlock Holmes character in that he reads tiny clues and draws huge conclusions from them which are always correct of course. There are plenty of real clues throughout the story so that the reader can come to some of the answers as well. This reader failed to guess the murderer although with hindsight I realised I should have done so!

This is a good old fashioned type of murder mystery told in an interesting way and with lots of references to popular culture. Horowitz is a man of many talents.

Profile Image for Linda.
1,226 reviews1,274 followers
August 2, 2018
And the words certainly take on a life or death of their own in The Word Is Murder.

Anthony Horowitz moves over ever so slightly and allows his readers to have a front row center seat in the unfolding of this quick-witted mystery. We readers sidle up alongside Anthony as he meets up with Ex-Detective Daniel Hawthorne. (Emphasis on the "Ex", folks) Hawthorne elbows his way into convincing Horowitz (the real real author) to write about Hawthorne's current investigation. Horowitz drags his feet, but he eventually buckles to the pressure and to the intrigue.

Enter: Diana Cowper, a sixtyish Londoner, who begins our story with an unusual event that should really be termed as an ending. Diana enters into a neighboring funeral home to plan her own funeral. Before her signature is barely dry on the funeral forms, Diana enters once more into her London home. And the word is murder spelled out brutally for Diana.

Hawthorne allows Horowitz to accompany him to the murder scene. It's here that Horowitz reveals the ease of writing about murder, but viewing it first hand sends him into a near faint. Careful steps are taken around the body as Hawthorne eyes misplaced objects and the last movements of the ill-fated Diana. As the investigation broadens, Hawthorne muzzles the curious writer from asking any questions. Frustration sets in and Horowitz feels compelled to walk away from the deal. But can he or will he?

The Word Is Murder takes us into the highly creative and originial thought processes of the very talented Anthony Horowitz. He's turned the tables on us readers. Instead of a passive reading experience on our usual part, we become more privy to the writer's approach to developing his characters and his storyline. We get inside the author's head which makes for a wild ride through this one. There's even a revealing dialogue between Hawthorne and Horowitz at the end.

The Word Is Murder is like an out-of-body-Agatha Christie moment with a dash of Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. Delightful!
Profile Image for Anne.
3,917 reviews69.3k followers
May 31, 2022
Very meta. <--I think I can safely say that, right?
Anthony Horowitz writes a murder mystery that stars and is narrated by Anthony Horowitz.


The plot is a very updated Sherlock tale, right down to the crazy (but fun) whodunnit reveal, with Horowitz playing a very unwilling and unhappy version of Watson to Hawthorne's rather obnoxious Holmes.


There are real-world parts of Horowitz's life that are sprinkled into the story to give it a bit of credibility and make the reader think that they are being invited into his private life. Nothing too personal, but I think he would have had to have been an idiot to shit talk about his wife's annoying habits in one of his books. That's a bit too meta, and no good can possibly come from that.


The mystery is good but like any good detective novel, you stick around for the main characters. And in crime, the more flawed the better.
I'm definitely coming back for more.
Profile Image for Tammy.
511 reviews429 followers
March 23, 2018
Cleverly meta and cool! Horowitz writes himself into his own novel which is the cleverly meta part. It’s cool because he references his career as the creator of Foyle’s War, the original adapter of Midsomer Murders and as the author of the teen series, Alex Rider. This mystery is deceptive, devious and revels in devilish games. The author had to have had a ball when writing this. It’s as entertaining as all get out.
Profile Image for SimitudeSims.
94 reviews20 followers
October 30, 2019
This was such a fun book to read. I love his writing style and he's so clever. I think he may be my new favorite writer. I'll have to read more of his books to make sure.
Profile Image for Tara.
360 reviews5 followers
December 25, 2017
Did you know that Anthony Horowitz worked on Tintin? Read this book and you'll never forget.
Profile Image for Malia.
Author 6 books551 followers
October 22, 2018
What a clever and enjoyable mystery! It was exactly what I was in the mood for, an engaging, character-driven story. The mystery itself wasn't too complicated and though I guessed at the resolution, it didn't bother me at all. Looking forward to the next book in the series!

Find more reviews and bookish fun at http://www.princessandpen.com
Profile Image for Liz Barnsley.
3,430 reviews989 followers
August 23, 2017
The Word is Murder is eccentric and totally brilliant – like reading an Agatha Christie novel if Agatha Christie placed herself at the centre of the action and engaged with Sherlock Holmes. It is a long term reader’s dream novel almost quite literally. In this case Mr Horowitz does just that, telling his own (?!?) story, getting sucked into a murder mystery of the classic locked room type with a modern twist and keeping us all guessing all the way through.

Quirky and extraordinarily readable, The Word Is Murder has an ironic, indelible tone that sucks you straight in – alongside little gloriously entertaining commentary on the authors real life, we also have Hawthorne (the Sherlock Holmes of this story) with his throwback personality, his acerbic witty asides and his intelligent mind, alternatively dazzling and frustrating Mr Horowitz as he tries to write a book he has no control over.

The mystery itself is gloriously twisty with proper clues and proper red herrings – in a way it feels like a homage to those crime stories of old, but now in a very modern setting – it is endlessly charming and utterly engrossing, I devoured it with all the fervour of the religiously converted.

Loved it. Delightful, funny and completely alive on the page The Word Is Murder is a distinctive, unforgettable novel with a huge touch of class.

Highly Recommended.

Profile Image for Beverly.
805 reviews290 followers
July 2, 2018
Bravo! The Word is Murder has many of the tropes of mystery fiction, including a brilliant, but acerbic detective, and his dim-witted partner, but manages to mix them together with details of the author's real life and work, so it was hard to tell what was made up and what was real. Horowitz, is the none too bright writer who becomes the Watson for ex-detective Hawthorne's Sherlock Holmes. Again and again the author pokes fun at the image of the mystery writer who actually couldn't solve a crime or even discover a clue of his life depended on it. This is brilliant and self-deprecating and a damn fine mystery to boot. I read it in a couple of days and it's 387 pages long!😄
May 18, 2018
4.5 extremely clever stars

You can see my reviews at https://yayareadslotsofbooks.wordpres...

This was my very first foray into the writings of Mr Horowitz. It will not be my last as its clever writing, easy style and the ability to draw one into the story line is quite alluring. Most alluring is the fact that the author himself is one of the main protagonists. and his being so made this book just plain fun. True, it was a murder and mayhem mystery, but the telling of this tale with Mr Horowitz being exactly what he is an author, made for an excellent way to both get to know him as well as read of his interaction with the very astute but totally weird ex detective Daniel Hawthorne, a bit of a British Detective Columbo.

Just imagine planning your own funeral. Diana Cowper, a wealthy woman with a movie star son, Daniel, does such a thing. The mystery begins when Diana is found strangled in her home only six hours after the master plan of her funeral is arranged. How could she possibly have known she would be dead shortly after seeing the funeral director? Diana had a checkered past being involved ten years ago in a hit and run that left one young boy dead and another irreparably disabled. She also had seemed to get away with it with only a bit of a slap on the wrist which might be another little clue to the story.

Therein lies the case who killed Diana, and as Hawthorne meets with Horowitz we learn that the ex detective wants Horowitz to write a book on his exploits. They develop a kind of tenuous relationship as "Tony"(by the way he hates being called that), learns more and more about the elusive Hawthorn and his uncanny ability to see clues and solutions where none seem to be apparent. It is their interchange and search for the killer which drives this story forward with quite a few twists and turns with a nice amount of shady characters with possible motives.

This was such a great read. I absolutely loved that the author inserted himself into the story and quite honestly had to ask myself could this be real? The interplay of the characters was a draw as well as the ending which was quite threatening to our author, or was it?

I highly recommend this book for those who are looking for a different way of both writing and telling a story that was hard to put down. Clever and witty and one in which I do hope to see "Tony" and Daniel meet up once again and get that Hawthorne book written.

Thank you to Anthony Horowitz, Harper Publishing, and Edelweiss for forwarding me an advanced copy of this totally engaging novel. Well done "Tony"!

Publishing on June 5, 2018
Profile Image for Sara.
Author 1 book487 followers
September 28, 2018
I hit a strange kind of reading impasse the last few days. I have tons of books around me and one that I have already started but just could not concentrate on. I kept reading a paragraph and then wondering what the hell I had read. Dying of boredom, I took a break to check my notifications on GR and what did I find but a super review by my friend, Candi, of Anthony Horowitz's novel, The Word is Murder. I found myself wishing I were reading that. So, I checked with Overdrive and to my surprise my library had it on offer. I checked it right out.

That is how I came to be reading this book instead of anything that was on my overstuffed TBR or sitting on my “Why don’t you read this?” shelf. I started the book and right away I was intrigued because the point of view character is none other than Anthony Horowitz, who peppers the fictional story he is telling with so much reality that you begin to feel as if you could go google these events and find out this really happened to him.

About a quarter of the way in, I had unraveled the mystery and surely knew the answer. Uh, about half way in, I knew I was wrong, because I had just figured out where I had made my mistake. Then about three-quarters of the way in, I decided I wasn’t as smart as Detective Hawthorne, the delightfully enigmatic character who is conducting this investigation, but only as smart as Anthony Horowitz (the character, not the writer). If that makes sense to you, you are well ahead of me...if it doesn’t, then you ought to read the book and then it will.

I’m tickled that I laid my other reading aside and read this instead. I am going to do it again soon, because I’ve got The House of Silk lurking in the background and I don’t think I am going to be able to postpone this itch indefinitely.
Profile Image for PorshaJo.
453 reviews660 followers
November 2, 2018
Rating 4.5

Loved it! I was a fan of Magpie Murders, really enjoyed it. I couldn't wait to get to another Anthony Horowitz book. I grabbed it without even reading the blurb, which is very, very rare. But I knew I would probably be in for a fun ride. And naturally, he didn't disappoint.

The Word is Murder (brilliant title) tells the story of the murder of Diana Cowper, happening just after she visits a funeral parlor to make all her own funeral arrangements. Bring in a brash, ex-police detective, and almost clueless (sorry Tony) writer and the, story begins. We really see the relationship between Hawthorne, the detective, and Tony, the writer, develop. Hawthorne is an excellent detective, but he just rubs people all the wrong way. The two are meant to be a modern day Holmes and Watson. (So....I've never read any Sherlock Holmes, so I can't understand that part. I know, I know, but too many books, not enough time, argh! The struggle is REAL!) They definitely work well together, even though at times, it's a strain. Hawthorne is investigating the murder and he 'cons' Tony into writing about him and the murder. Splitting the proceeds of a to-be written book 50-50. Anyway, back to the murder....murders....mayhem. I don't want to say anymore to ruin this for others, but say only, read this one. A fun, a bit inventive, read.

Naturally I did the audio and loved it! One of the best audio's of the year for me and a top book of year. I loved the way the author brought himself into the book. Now, I'm not a mystery/thriller/murder reader and I'm an absolute dunce, so I didn't know who the murderer was until that very moment, when...when...someone else did. And I enjoyed every moment of it. I love Hawthorne, a great character. Rory Kinnear did the narration and did a bang-up job. If Rory does not narrate the next book in the series, I must just have to read the print. Shocking!

So after all the love on this one, why not a full 5 stars? Well, I'm very rough and very stingy with 5 stars. I had to knock this a bit as at times, the author talking about his other books, his movie connections, the meeting with Spielberg and Jackson, and it all became a bit much. It wasn't bragging, but it was a list of all the stuff the author has done. Perhaps a bit of a 'sell'. Maybe a bit too much inserting himself into the book. And that got to be a bit much for me. And the very, very end...like the last few pages. I gasped 'aaarrgghh' at the very end as yeah, it leads to book 2 but I didn't want that. Cause who knows how long I have to wait!!!!! But I still loved this one, but had to knock it just a bit.

In any case, bring on Hawthorne Book #2! And hopefully, very soon! I want it noooowww (ala Veruca Salt! :-)
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