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

We know when Mrs Cowper entered the funeral parlour because her movements were recorded on CCTV both in the street and on the bus that took her from her home that morning. It was one of her eccentricities that she always used public transport. She could easily have afforded a chauffeur.

She left the funeral parlour at a quarter to twelve, walked up to South Kensington tube station and took the Piccadilly line to Green Park. She had an early lunch with a friend at the Café Murano, an expensive restaurant on St James's Street, near Fortnum & Mason. From there, she took a taxi to the Globe Theatre on the South Bank. She wasn't seeing a play. She was on the board and there was a meeting on the first floor of the building that lasted from two o'clock until a little before five. She got home at five past six. It had just begun to rain but she had an umbrella with her and left it in a faux- Victorian stand beside the front door.

Thirty minutes later, somebody strangled her.

She lived in a smart, terraced house in Britannia Road just beyond the area of Chelsea that is known – appropriately, in her case – as World's End. There were no CCTV cameras in the street, so there was no way of knowing who went in or left around the time of the murder. The neighbouring houses were empty. One was owned by a consortium based in Dubai and was usually rented out, though not at this particular time. The other belonged to a retired lawyer and his wife but they were away in the South of France. So nobody heard anything.

She was not found for two days. Andrea Kluvánek, the Slovakian cleaner who worked for her twice a week, made the discovery when she came in on Wednesday morning. Diana Cowper was lying face down on the living- room floor. A length of red cord, normally used to tie back the curtains, was around her throat. The forensic report, written in the matter-of-fact, almost disinterested manner of all such documents, described in detail the blunt- force injuries of the neck, the fractured hyoid bone and conjunctiva of the eyes. Andrea saw something a great deal worse. She had been working at the house for two years and had come to like her employer, who had always treated her kindly, often stopping to have a coffee with her. On the Wednesday, as she opened the door, she was confronted with a dead body and one that had been lying there for some time. The face, what she could see of it, had gone mauve. The eyes were empty and staring, the tongue hanging out grotesquely, twice its normal length. One arm was outstretched, a finger with a diamond ring pointing at her as if in accusation. The central heating had been on. The body was already beginning to smell.

According to her testimony, Andrea did not scream. She was not sick. She quietly backed out of the house and called the police on her mobile phone. She did not go in again until they arrived.

To begin with, the police assumed that Diana Cowper had been the victim of a burglary. Certain items, including jewellery and a laptop computer, had been taken from the house. Many of the rooms had been searched, the contents scattered. However, there had been no break-in. Mrs Cowper had clearly opened the door to her attacker, although it was unclear if she had known the person or not. She had been surprised and strangled from behind. She had barely put up a fight. There were no fingerprints, no DNA, no clues of any sort, suggesting that the perpetrator must have planned this with a great deal of care. He had distracted her and plucked the red cord off the hook beside the velvet curtain in the living room. He had crept up behind her, slipped it over her head and pulled. It would have taken only a minute or so for her to die.

But then the police found out about her visit to Cornwallis and Sons and realised that they had a real puzzle on their hands. Think about it. Nobody arranges their own funeral and then gets killed on the same day. This was no coincidence. The two events had to be connected. Had she somehow known she was going to die? Had someone seen her going in or coming out of the funeral parlour and been prompted, for some reason, to take action? Who actually knew she had been there?

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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