Excerpt from The Word Is Murder by Anthony Horowitz, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Word Is Murder

by Anthony Horowitz

The Word Is Murder by Anthony Horowitz X
The Word Is Murder by Anthony Horowitz
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2018, 400 pages
    May 2019, 432 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Meara Conner
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Print Excerpt

'Good morning,' he said. 'My name is Robert Cornwallis. I understand you wish to discuss a funeral plan with us.'


'You've been offered coffee or tea? Please come this way.'

The new client was taken down the corridor to a room at the end. This was as understated as the reception area – with one difference. Instead of books there were folders and brochures which, if opened, would show images of coffins, hearses (traditional or horse- drawn) and price lists. A number of urns had been arranged on two shelves should the discussion veer towards cremation. Two armchairs faced each other, one beside a small desk. Cornwallis sat here. He took out a pen, a silver Mont Blanc, and rested it on a notepad.

'The funeral is your own,' he began.

'Yes.' Suddenly Mrs Cowper was brisk, wanting to get straight to the point. 'I have already given some consideration to the details. I take it you have no problem with that.'

'On the contrary. Individual requirements are important to us. These days, pre- planned funerals and what you might call bespoke or themed funerals are very much the mainstay of our business. It is our privilege to provide exactly what our clients demand. After our discussion here, and assuming our terms are acceptable to you, we will provide you with a full invoice and breakdown of what has been agreed. Your relatives and friends will have nothing to do except, of course, to attend. And from our experience I can assure you that it will give them great comfort to know that everything has been done exactly in accordance with your wishes.'

Mrs Cowper nodded. 'Excellent. Well, let's get down to it, shall we?' She took a breath, then dived straight in. 'I want to be buried in a cardboard coffin.'

Cornwallis was about to make his first note. He paused, the nib hovering over the page. 'If you are considering an eco- funeral, might I suggest recycled wood or even twisted willow branches rather than cardboard? There are occasions when cardboard can be ... not entirely effective.' He chose his words carefully, allowing all sorts of possibilities to hang in the air. 'Willow is hardly more expensive and a great deal more attractive.'

'All right. I want to be buried in Brompton Cemetery, next to my husband.'

'You lost him recently?' 'Twelve years ago. We already have the plot, so there 'll be no problems there. And this is what I want in the service ...' She opened her handbag and took out a sheet of paper, which she laid on the desk.

The funeral director glanced down. 'I see that you have already put a great deal of thought into the matter,' he said. 'And this is a very well- considered service, if I may say so. Partly religious, partly humanist.'

'Well, there 's a psalm – and there 's the Beatles. A poem, a bit of classical music and a couple of addresses. I don't want the thing going on too long.'

'We can work out the timings exactly ...'

Diana Cowper had planned her funeral and she was going to need it. She was murdered about six hours later that same day. At the time of her death, I had never heard of her and I knew almost nothing about how she was killed. I may have noticed the headline in the newspapers – actor's mother murdered – but the photographs and the bulk of the story were all focused on the more famous son, who had just been cast as the lead in a new American television series. The conversation that I have described is only a rough approximation because, of course, I wasn't there. But I did visit Cornwallis and Sons and spoke at length to both Robert Cornwallis and his assistant (she was also his cousin), Irene Laws. If you were to walk down the Fulham Road you would have no trouble identifying the funeral parlour. The rooms are exactly as I describe them. Most of the other details are taken from witness statements and police reports.

From the book: The Word Is Murder by Anthony Horowitz. Copyright © 2018 by Anthony Horowitz. Reprinted courtesy of Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

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