The Crime Writer by Gregg Hurwitz

August 15, 2009

crime writer Plot summary (with spoilers): Crime novelist Andrew “Drew” Danner wakes up one day in a hospital bed with no recollection of how he got there. Two detectives are also in the room, and they waste no time in showing him crime scene photos. Genevieve Bertrand, Danner’s ex-fiancée, was murdered, and Danner was found next to the body, holding the knife that had been used to stab her. Danner had had a seizure at the crime scene, and was taken to the hospital, where doctors discovered and then operated on a sizable brain tumor.

After Drew is released from the hospital, he’s put on trial for Genvieve’s murder. He really has no recollection of what happened, so for all he knows, he’s guilty. But his lawyers manage to convince the jury that his tumor made him act irrationally, so Drew was not convicted. However, he can’t move on with his life without finding out exactly what happened that fateful night, so he begins investigating on his own.

With the help of his editor Preston and his friend Chic, Drew starts retracing events on the night Genvieve was killed. He also begins writing out the details of his investigation, which could serve as the basis for his next novel. But Drew gets thrown for another loop when a second body is found. This next victim was killed in exactly the same way as Genevieve, which brings the cops calling once again. Fortunately, Drew has an airtight alibi for the night of the second murder, but now he’s convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that someone’s out to frame him.

Drew catches a break when he learns that a troubled teen named Junior witnessed the body dump. Junior was out tagging some wall space under a bridge and saw a brown Volvo with a dent on the right wheel well at the same time that police figured the body was dumped. Junior also got a partial license plate number. Drew takes this information to Lloyd Wagoner, a crime lab specialist who used to consult on Drew’s novels, and gets even more leads. Following those new leads up, Drew eventually settles on a suspect named Mort Frankel.

The rest of the novel then shows how Drew goes about trying to figure out why Mort would want to frame him for these murders. Drew encounters a lot of resistance from the LAPD detectives conducting the official investigation, but manages to work everything out and ID the real killer at the end.

Liked:

  • I enjoyed the twist at the end. I didn’t see that one coming, so I was just as surprised as Drew to learn that Lloyd was the killer. It was kinda hokey that both he and Mort had brown Volvos, though, and that Drew didn’t realize the coincidence until it was almost too late, but whatever. At least the motive sorta made sense.

Disliked:

  • Drew wasn’t a particularly likable character. He just seemed so stupid at times that I wanted to punch him in the face. Plus, his motivation for wanting to solve Genvieve’s murder didn’t seem compelling enough. He was already found not guilty in her case and was cleared of the second murder as well. He could very easily just have moved on with his life, especially when it looked like Mort was going to be too dangerous to mess with.
  • There were a number of pointless scenes along the way that just served to drag the novel out and bog things down. For instance, was it really necessary for Drew to go to Preston’s condo for that stupid scene about how the place didn’t match Preston’s personality at all? Who cares??? And the entire subplot with Caroline was excruciatingly predictable and amateurishly written. Of course she cried after sex… geez, don’t all women? 🙄
  • All of the minor characters seemed to be stereotypes rather than “real” people. A troubled teen graffiti artist with a heart of gold? Check. A street-smart, connected black guy who can help push the main character in the right direction? Check. Stubborn, smart-ass LAPD officers who refuse to believe that the main character is innocent? Check. It was like I’d encountered these characters a thousand times before in other books.

Rating:
The Crime Writer by Gregg Hurwitz brought nothing new to the table. Readers familiar with the genre have seen plenty of protagonists out to prove their own innocence, have encountered murderers killing for medical reasons, and have met streetwise characters with a good side. As a result, there wasn’t anything original in this book, and Hurwitz’ writing style is not good enough to warrant a recommendation on its own merits. I give this book 2 stars out of 5.

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