Book Review

Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz

Retired publisher Susan Ryeland is running a small hotel on a Greek island with her long-term boyfriend. But life isn’t as idyllic as it should be: exhausted by the responsibility of making everything work on an island where nothing ever does, Susan is beginning to miss her literary life in London – even though her publishing career once entangled her in a lethal literary murder plot.

So when an English couple come to visit with tales of a murder that took place in a hotel the same day their daughter Cecily was married there, Susan can’t help but find herself fascinated.

And when they tell her that Cecily has gone missing a few short hours after reading Atticus Pünd Takes the Case, a crime novel Susan edited some years previously, Susan knows she must return to London to find out what has happened.

The clues to the murder and to Cecily’s disappearance must lie within the pages of this novel.

But to save Cecily, Susan must place her own life in mortal danger…

I’m a big fan of Anthony Horowitz’s work and was thrilled when Moonflower Murders was published in 2020.  I think that, if I’m honest, I prefer the Daniel Hawthorne series, but I enjoyed this wonderfully complex mystery which follows on from 2016’s Magpie Murders

While part of a series,  I wouldn’t say that it’s absolutely essential for you to read Magpie Murders first – the mystery in Moonflower Murders is unconnected to that of the previous novel and so it works as a standalone in that respect.  That said, you would be missing out on the backstory of some of the characters – Susan Ryeland appears in both, and there are references to her past and the events of the first novel throughout Moonflower Murders, and so I would personally recommend reading Magpie Murders before delving into this one. 

Moonflower Murders has something of an unusual premise as publisher turned hotelier Susan Ryeland is approached by Lawrence and Pauline Trehearne when their daughter, Cecily, goes missing.  Prior to her disappearance, Cecily believed that she had discovered the clue to an eight-year-old crime in a novel by Alan Conway – a novel that Susan edited in her previous life in publishing.  Susan heads to Suffolk to investigate, and becomes caught up in an increasingly complex case, uncovering a few clues, but not what happened to Cecily.  Both Susan and the reader then get the opportunity to read the book in which Cecily found the all-important clue and that lies at the heart of the mystery – Atticus Pünd Takes the Case

I love a novel within a novel, and Horowitz uses it to brilliant effect in Moonflower Murders.  It gives the reader the opportunity to see what Susan and the other characters have missed by sharing the novel in its entirety.  I think that anyone who reads this kind of novel likes the opportunity to play detective and this is a golden opportunity to do so.  It also shows Horowitz to be an extremely clever writer as Atticus Pünd Takes the Case has quite a different tone to it than the “main” novel, and it shows Horowitz’s ability to turn his pen to different styles of writing.  The Atticus Pünd novels are set in the 1950s, and successfully evoke the best golden age mysteries, with Pünd himself reminding me a little of a certain famous – if not infamous – Belgian detective in the way that he goes about solving a crime and deducing who is responsible.

Through Susan’s character, Horowitz is able to give something of a critique of the crime fiction genre.  This comes across really well, not mocking it exactly – it is a genre Horowitz himself writes in, after all – but perhaps having a little fun with the ideas and principles associated with crime fiction, particularly in the way that Susan reveals all at the end of the novel to a small gathering of potential suspects in a way that is reminiscent of both Atticus Pünd and others.  I think that Horowitz is an author who doesn’t take himself too seriously and having fun with the genre in this way adds a little playfulness to the narrative that I really enjoy.  This is also apparent in his Daniel Hawthorne series, and it’s a part of what makes his novels so fun to read. 

There’s something very satisfying about a complicated whodunnit that actually makes sense

If there’s one thing I’ve found throughout all of Horowitz’s novels, it’s that they are all incredibly complex – he writes absolutely brilliant mysteries that I’ve never managed to solve, despite my best efforts.  And yet, like the best whodunnits, all of the clues are there for the reader to pick up on.  Sifting them out from the red herrings has proved impossible for me, but each novel of his that I’ve read has been brilliantly clever as well as thoroughly entertaining.  Recommended if you like a very modern whodunnit from an author who really knows how to create a complex and intriguing puzzle for his readers.

Moonflower Murders is available in hardback, digital, and audio formats, with the paperback currently scheduled for release in April 2021.


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