Bestselling author Gregg Hurwitz steps away from his US Marshal Tim Rackley series for his latest novel, The Crime Writer. Hurwitz says that Andrew Danner’s story insisted on being told.
I have to admit, I was intrigued by the title and the premise. The title alone is provocative to me because I love whodunits and tough guy private eyes. In the novel, Andrew Danner wakes up in the hospital after undergoing an emergency surgery to remove a brain tumor. As a result, he doesn’t remember the last few hours of his conscious life.
The police are waiting in his hospital room and Danner quickly discovers that they believe he killed his ex-fiance in a fit of rage. Danner knows he wasn’t happy about the split, but he’s also pretty sure that he wouldn’t kill anyone. Except that there’s that whole question of that pesky tumor and the mystery of why he was over at his ex-fiance’s house that night anyway.
Danner, like Hurwitz, is a bestselling crime writer, and he can’t let those mysteries go unsolved. Despite his release after his murder trial, he finds his life irrevocably turned upside down. He feels he has no choice except to figure out what truly happened the night his ex-fiance was murdered.
However, before he can get deep into his own investigation, Danner is arrested again. Another woman has been found murdered, and the clues at the murder scene once more point to the crime writer.
Reviews over this novel seem to be mixed, and I think that’s fair. Hurwitz takes liberties with his plot and the whole noir flavor of the story. If you take time to think about the various complexities of the plot, and how things fall neatly into place, you’ll find that sometimes they do grind against each other.
On the other hand, I did NOT take time to think about everything. I was consumed by this novel. Hurwitz offers a blistering, white water slalom through fanged rocks and I just couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. He kept me nailed to the story, rocketing along one step behind his main character as we explored the twists and turns of the events already in motion.
This book offers everything a noir reader loves, and I fell for it like a ton of bricks. Danner is a great first-person narrator, is constantly on the outside of the investigation banging his head against the wall to get in and clear his name, and always at the eye of the storm. Not only that, but Danner has friends he can rely on, and he meets some new enemies and supporters along the way. The Crime Writer is a definite template for how these novels used to be written and how they should still be written. But only by gifted practitioners. Hurwitz is one of those.
Hurwitz keeps a lot of balls in the air, but they all play closely to the driving plot. All the ancillary characters are there to help Danner figure out what’s going on. At the same time, they’re fleshed out and their relationship to Danner is revealed.
My best advice is to block out a couple days for reading, then curl up with this book and read it straight through. Don’t think about it. Just enjoy it. The Crime Writer is like a good rollercoaster ride: if you go willingly, forget that you actually already know where you’re going to end up and that you’re going to be safe, you can enjoy the illusion and adrenaline of the stripped-down velocity.
I’m hoping Hollywood sees this nifty little book on their radar and snaps it up for production. It would make a great little film.
For those of you new to Hurwitz’s work, check out his Tim Rackley novels. He’s also writing The Punisher and Foolkiller for Marvel Comics.