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The Crime Writer    by Gregg Hurwitz order for
Crime Writer
by Gregg Hurwitz
Order:  USA  Can
Viking, 2007 (2007)

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In Gregg Hurwitz's latest compelling thriller, The Crime Writer, set in LA, mystery novelist Andrew Drew Danner ends up trying to make sense of his own story. He wakes up in hospital, after surgery for a brain tumor, to discover himself under arrest for the murder of his volatile ex-fiancée, Genevieve Bertrand. Most consider him guilty and, though he finds it hard to believe that he could have hurt Genevieve, even Drew wonders what he did under the influence of the growth inside his head.

Four months later, he heads home with the tumor in a jar. He's a 'low-grade celeb', after being tried for murder and judged not guilty by reason of insanity. The first night home, Drew awakens to find his sliding glass door open, a cut on his foot, and his boning knife (identical to the one that killed Genevieve) missing. He wonders if he's losing his sanity. Luckily, he does have some resources, in particular his best friend (met at an AA meeting) Chic who's always there for him, and his intense editor Preston who advises, 'The story you should be working on is the one that's working on you' and dismisses Drew's own mystery protagonist as Dirk Chincleft. Drew needs his friends too as the nightmare continues with his arrest for another murder with the same MO as the first.

What makes this gripping story even more delightful to mystery readers is that we read the character's own journal of events, along with Preston's editorial annotations like 'Use something here that's not a cliché'. They assess the dreadful situation like one of Drew's own thriller plots. He looks at events himself with a writer's eye, musing 'You impact the plot. Or the plot impacts you.' Drew investigates, aided by his friends and with reluctant help from a West-L.A. detective and a criminalist he'd previously consulted on crime plots. The trail leads to a young spray painting graffiti artist, Junior Delgado in a residential placement facility where a beautiful, badly scarred woman works. Caroline Raine enlists Drew to act as Junior's Big Brother, in order to get him to a court appearance and their lives continue to intersect thereafter. She tells him, 'You can't get through life ... without getting damaged. You just don't. Not if you're a feeling person ... And when you don't want to see that in yourself, you see it in others.'

Drew and his friends keep busy analysing the story's quality and credibility as it unfolds. As all good mystery heroes do, he figures out the plot by the end - and I must admit that, though I guessed whodunit, the motivation totally ambushed me. I can't say it better than Harlan Coben's 'Gregg Hurwitz rocks'. Rush to read The Crime Writer!

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