A few years ago I read Anthony Horowitz’s Magpie Murders, a wonderful, imaginative novel containing a story-within-a-story – the outer one being a crime story set in the contemporary publishing world and the inner one being an entire Golden-Age-style murder mystery featuring a detective called Atticus Pünd. When I finished that book I remember feeling disappointed that there weren’t more Atticus Pünd novels to read, so I was delighted to find that Horowitz’s latest book, Moonflower Murders, is written in the same format.
Both books stand alone so it’s not essential to have read Magpie Murders before starting Moonflower Murders (although there are a few references in this one to the events of the previous book). At the beginning of the novel, we rejoin Susan Ryeland who is now running a small hotel in Crete with her boyfriend, Andreas. It’s not quite the idyllic life Susan had hoped for, though, and just as she is beginning to long for her old career in publishing, two guests approach her with an intriguing proposition.
Their names are Lawrence and Pauline Treherne and they run a hotel of their own in England, where a murder took place eight years ago. Stefan Codrescu, one of the hotel employees, was found guilty of the murder, but the Trehernes’ daughter, Cecily, has always believed him to be innocent. Now Cecily has disappeared, just after telling her parents that she had uncovered a clue in an Alan Conway novel called Atticus Pünd Takes the Case which proves that the wrong man had been charged with the crime. Knowing that Susan was the editor who worked on the Atticus Pünd novels in her publishing days, the Trehernes have come to ask for her help. What was the clue Alan Conway hid within the pages of his novel? Is Stefan innocent or guilty? And what has happened to Cecily?
After several chapters in which Susan begins to investigate the events of eight years earlier and how they could be connected with Cecily’s disappearance, we have the pleasure of reading the whole of Atticus Pünd Takes the Case, a detective novel dealing with the murder of a famous actress. Although this story-within-a-story is enjoyable in its own right, at first it’s not clear how it is linked to the murder at the Trehernes’ hotel, but Susan’s knowledge of how Alan Conway’s mind worked helps her to pick out possible hints and clues. I certainly didn’t manage to solve the mysteries – either the one in the Pünd story or the one in the framing story – myself, but I enjoyed watching everything unfold.
I didn’t love this book quite as much as Magpie Murders, probably because I already knew what to expect so it didn’t feel as original, but it was still hugely entertaining and, like the previous novel, packed with word games and other little puzzles cleverly woven into the text. And of course, as an Agatha Christie fan I adore the Atticus Pünd stories in both books, which are such perfect homages to Christie herself. As we have been told that the fictional author Alan Conway apparently wrote a whole series of Atticus Pünd novels, I hope Anthony Horowitz will give us the opportunity to read at least one more of them!
Thanks to Random House UK for providing a copy of this book for review via NetGalley.
This is book 12/20 from my 20 Books of Summer list.