The Moonflower Murders

Since the start of the pandemic, I have found solace in books. Sudoku, too. But when I wasn’t cooking and baking for family, and trying to work out where a 9 went in box 3 of the grid, books have been my constant companions. Throughout 2020, no writer has kept me company more times than Anthony Horowitz.

A prolific writer in all forms of the art, Horowitz is known to all as the creator of classic TV shows like Midsomer Murders, Foyle’s War, and has written a number of well received episodes of Agatha Christie’s Poirot. His YA adventure series featuring teenage spy Alex Rider recently premiered on Amazon in the form of a big budget adaptation. I haven’t read any of this series, but the Amazon show is a lot of fun and I hope for news of renewal soon. It’s worth your time.

I will examine Horowitz’s James Bond and Sherlock Homes novels at a later date, but for now I want to focus on The Moonflower Murders, his sequel to 2016’s Magpie Murders, both featuring publisher Susan Ryeland and, in a novel-within-a-novel twist, Atticus Pund. Pund features in a series of detective fiction edited by Ryeland for her publishing house, and is the creation of the now-deceased author Alan Conway. In Magpie Murders, Conway’s unpublished manuscript is the basis of an elaborate whodunnit, and is replete with wordplay, hidden clues, murder and mayhem, ultimately ending in a face-off in a burning building with the murderer. It’s a lot, but by God is it satisfying! I urge you to read Magpie Murders before starting Moonflower.

Anthony Horowitz

Following the events of the first book, Susan Ryeland now lives in Crete with her Greek partner and together they run a Bed & Breakfast. Ryeland thinks of home a lot, and while she loves her partner very much, they’re under considerable financial and personal strain. So it’s no wonder Ryeland jumps at the chance of solving another mystery when an English couple arrive at the B&B, asking for her help in finding their missing daughter who was last seen reading an Atticus Pund novel. The couple, who own a hotel in England, itself the scene of a murder some years back, worry for their daughter’s safety, and because Conway himself was a guest at the hotel, they hope Ryeland can offer assistance. She agrees, mainly because she’s a sucker for a mystery, but also because she’s been offered a cash reward plus expenses, and she needs the money for the business.

The book the missing girl was reading is Atticus Pund Takes The Case, and the entire short novel forms the centrepiece of this complex tale. Horowitz takes obvious delight in putting Ryeland and his readers through the mill in the pages of The Moonflower Murders. Alan Conway’s disdain for humans and human nature is prevalent throughout the narrative, and although he’s dead (this is not a spoiler; he’s very much dead at the beginning of Magpie Murders), his presense is very much palpable. Ryeland has to untangle a mystery that once again places her in mortal danger.

The Moonflower Murders is a delightful read, one I gobbled up in a couple of sittings almost as soon as it was published. It’s twisty, it contains more red herrings than you can bake a fish pie with, and even manages to save the perfect surprise for the epilogue. It’s the perfect blend of classic Golden Age detective fiction and contemporary settings. Dame Agatha would be proud, as would Detective Chief Superintendant Foyle. I’m not sure what the denizens of Midsomer would make of it, though.