The Word is Murder – Anthony Horowitz

The Word is MurderThe story…

Renowned fiction author Anthony Horowitz is approached by an old acquaintance, a jaded and disagreeable investigator, with an idea of a new, true crime novel. A particularly perplexing murder has just been committed, and Hawthorne is convinced the story could be a big hit, providing they can solve the case.

My thoughts…

This book has one of the most unique concepts of all the books I’ve ever read. Even now I’m still slightly baffled by it. Leaving aside the story for the moment, the idea of having Horowitz write himself as a character in his own novel is very odd. There are so many personal details in the book that must be autobiographical – for example, detailed descriptions about his own past as a scriptwriter for TV programme Foyles War. In addition to this, the fictional murder storyline is entwined into these real life details. At least, I assume that this storyline is fictional – even now I’m not quite sure.

Horowitz’s relationship with Hawthorne, the detective, and the issues that he comes up against while writing a true crime novel – such as the tendency to cut irrelevant details and airbrush Hawthorne’s character into one that would be more relatable for his readers – also form a key part of the narrative. It’s a perspective that takes some getting used to, and means that the book we get isn’t a crime novel, it’s a book about someone writing that crime novel.

The main plot of the novel focuses around the murder of Diana Cowper, which is made all the more unusual by the fact that she had visited a funeral parlour that very same day to plan for her own death. There’s a rich and varied cast of characters and suspects, each of whom is hiding something. There’s also a traumatic accident in Diana Cowper’s past, a self-obsessed Hollywood actor son and a disgruntled housekeeper – in short, everything that makes a good crime novel.

As Horowitz is writing this book after the events took place, he is an omnipresent narrator, and occasionally drops in little hints and reflections on events as the story progresses. This also makes him inherently unreliable, as he makes executive decisions on what details he should leave out or make more palatable to his audience. As readers, we’re playing catch up, attempting to read between the lines and decipher the truth about what happened before the big reveal at the end.

In conclusion…

Just as in his previous novel, Magpie Murders, the book is filled with hidden clues and elaborate red herrings. Overall, despite the unusual style, which I must admit that I did find a little distracting, I did enjoy this book. I failed at identifying the murderer and his motives, which I always think is a sign of a good detective novel.

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The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley – Hannah Tinti

The Twelve Lives of Samuel HawleyThe story: Loo has spent her life travelling the country with her father, never staying in one place for too long and always ready to pack up and go at a moment’s notice. Samuel Hawley, her father, has a dangerous past – one that’s written across his body in scars. When they attempt to settle down in the hometown of Loo’s mother, resistance from the local community causes problems for them both. As Loo grows up and struggles to fit in and become her own person, she also has to reconcile her idealistic childhood views of her father with the man that he used to be, and the man that he’s become.

My views: I really enjoyed this book. The format – which is made up of stories of Samuel’s past and how he came to get each of his twelve bullet scars, interspersed with the story of Loo’s present as she attempts to deal with bullying, boys and an absent mother – worked really well and kept me gripped.

Samuel is unapologetic about his past. He knows that he’s made some bad decisions and chosen a dubious path on numerous occasions, with repercussions that have affected not just himself but also his daughter. He may not have been the model father, but he’s fiercely protective of Loo, and has turned his life around to raise her as best he can. As she grows up and starts to question him, he’s forced to deal with the fact that she’s no longer a child but a young woman capable of making her own decisions and her own mistakes. Continue reading

Let the Dead Speak – Jane Casey

Let the dead speakThe story:
When eighteen year old Chloe Emery returns to her house to find it covered in blood and her mother missing, and DS Maeve Kerrigan and the murder investigation squad are called to investigate. While investigating the various shady neighbours living on the street, all of whom seem to be hiding something, they uncover a complicated web of lies, deceit and deeply buried secrets.

My thoughts:
If you’ve read the previous books in the series, you’ll already be familiar with the main players. As always, the investigation, processes and team dynamics were totally believable. Maeve’s own relationship with Derwent and the rest of the team has also evolved from the earlier books in the series. She’s now a Detective Sergeant and an integral member of the team with a junior to manage. Continue reading

Kathy Reichs’ ‘Bones Never Lie’

Bones never lieThe latest installment in Kathy Reichs’ long running crime series featuring forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan, ‘Bones Never Lie’, continues in the vein of her previous novels – fast paced, full of twists and turns and a great main character that readers can relate to.

When young girls start showing up dead in circumstances that are strikingly similar to one of Tempe’s old cases, she is forced to face her demons as she, along with her team, try to catch ‘the one that got away’.

This ‘one that got away’ is a sadistic killer with every reason to hold a grudge against Tempe. But is the same person behind this latest spate of killings? With little evidence to go on, Tempe goes back over every detail of her old files, hoping to find the one thing that will break the case. But it’s not long before things get personal – and Tempe has to fight tooth and nail to stop the culprit before it’s too late.

Continue reading

‘The Museum of things Left Behind’ by Seni Glaister

Museum of Things Left Behind‘The Museum of Things Left Behind’ is set in the entirely fictional country of Vallerosa, which is supposed to sit somewhere in the middle of Switzerland, Italy and Austria.

Lizzie, a British student, arrives in Vallerosa aiming to widen her horizons, intending to give to those judged less fortunate than herself by helping out in a hospital, orphanage or similar institution. What she finds is very different.

Run by an elected dictator, who inherited the job from his father, Vallerosa’s government seems entirely hung up mindless bureaucracy – a committee to decide the name of a committee or a meeting with the under-secretary to arrange a meeting with the Secretary.

Positions of power are inherited, women are scarce and the President himself is consumed by self-doubt. The country is neatly divided into those in government and those that are more working class – and the two groups really mix socially. But at the same time, everyone is educated, employed, healthy and generally happy.

Lizzie is initially at a loss as to what to do with her time. But she quickly learns that she can give seething back to this country, albeit not at all in the way she’d planned. Confusion over her identity pushes her straight into the heart of government, giving her a unique opportunity to see life from the viewpoint of the countries many dedicated officials. At the same time, she goes out of her way to speak to ordinary people. Initially, she sets out to find a way to fix the town clock, and in doing so, she may have the opportunity to bring the country even closer together.

At the same time, Vallerosa might also be able to give her something that she didn’t have before – a new sense of self-awareness and an appreciation for a simpler, more honest way of life. Continue reading

‘The Stranger You Know’ by Jane Casey

The Stranger You KnowDetective Maeve Kerrigan has a strained relationship with her boss – the chauvinistic, obnoxious, but occasionally charming DCI Josh Derwent. But when a recent spate of murders in London starts throwing up parallels to the murder of Dewent’s girlfriend twenty years earlier, it soon becomes clear that her superiors suspect that he might have a darker side.

Despite being under strict instructions not to talk to Derwent about the details of their current investigation, Maeve finds herself increasingly torn between following orders and allowing Derwent to help her in her attempts to find out what really happened to his girlfriend all those years ago.

Although Maeve doesn’t believe Derwent capable of killing, the cases throw up more and more disturbing similarities. As more bodies are discovered, and the cold case brings old feelings to the surface, Maeve becomes increasingly unsure if she really knows her colleague at all. Continue reading

‘Ghost Moth’ by Michele Forbes

ghost mothSet in Belfast, Ghost Moth follows the lives of Katherine and George against a backdrop of considerable social unrest and religious tension.

In 1949, Katherine is young, vivacious and discovering all of the new opportunities that life has to offer. She’s also torn between two men – George, her fiancé, who is steady, loyal and dependable, and Tom, who offers fire, passion and unpredictability. As months go by, Katherine has to make a choice that will have far-reaching consequences, indelibly marking all involved.

In 1969, Katherine and George are married with four young children. Her life is dominated by looking after others and she’s still scarred by events that happened twenty years earlier. Her relationship with her husband is strained, and hides long suppressed feelings on anger, guilt and desire that threaten to destroy their marriage and the carefully constructed life they’ve built together. Continue reading