EXCERPT: ‘So, let me get this straight,’ I said. I had the sense of facts tumbling on top of each other, yet I knew there was something they hadn’t told me. ‘You believe that maybe, despite all the evidence, not to mention the confession, Stefan Codrescu did not kill Frank Parris and that Alan Conway came to the hotel and discovered – in a matter of days – who the real killer was. He then somehow identified that person in Atticus Pund Takes the Case.’
‘But that makes no sense at all, Pauline. If he knew the killer and there was an innocent man in prison, surely Alan would have gone straight to the police! Why would he turn it into a work of fiction?’
‘That’s precisely why we’re here, Susan. From what Sajid Khan told us, you knew Alan Conway better than anyone. You edited the book. If there is something in there, I can’t think of anyone more likely to find it.’
‘Wait a minute.’ Suddenly I knew what was missing. ‘This all started when your daughter spotted something in Atticus Takes the Case. Was she the only one who read it before she sent it to you?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘But what was it she saw? Why didn’t you just call her and ask her what she meant?’
It was Lawrence Treherne who answered my question. ‘Of course we called her,’he said. ‘We both read the book and then we rang her several times from France. Finally we got through to Aiden and he told us what had happened.’ He paused. ‘It seems that our daughter has disappeared.’
ABOUT MOONFLOWER MURDERS BY ANTHONY HOROWITZ: Retired publisher Susan Ryeland is living the good life. She is running a small hotel on a Greek island with her longterm boyfriend Andreas. It should be everything she’s always wanted – but is it? She’s exhausted with the responsibilities of making everything work on an island where nothing ever does, and truth be told she’s beginning to miss her old life in London.
And then a couple – the Trehernes – come to stay, and the story they tell about an unfortunate murder that took place on the same day and in the same hotel in which their daughter was married, is such a strange and mysterious one that Susan finds herself increasingly fascinated by it. And when the Trehernes tell her that their daughter is now missing, Susan knows that she must return to London and find out what really happened …
MY THOUGHTS: I simply devoured Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz, the second in the Susan Ryeland series. This is an intricate and ingeniously plotted murder mystery; one murder mystery contained within another – or, if you like, two books for the price of one!
The first mystery, that of the Treherne’s daughter’s disappearance is set in the present time. The second murder mystery, contained in Alan Conway’s novel Atticus Takes the Case is set in the 1950s, before the advent of the internet and the mobile phone. Conway was of the opinion that the internet was the worst thing ever to happen to detective fiction, which is why he set his own works in the fifties. He believed that it was hard to make your detective look clever when all the information in the world is instantly available to anyone who cares to look for it.
Conway, as I mentioned in my review of Magpie Murders, likes to insert his own little jokes into his manuscripts, which are full of anagrams (play around with the name ‘Atticus Pund’ and see what you come up with!), codes, and cruel caricatures of people he has met. Again there are literary references aplenty, particularly with regard to Agatha Christie, whose work he plundered mercilessly.
In the current time, Susan and Andreas are again at a crossroads, and she leaves Crete both to gain a little perspective, and in order to inject £10,000 into their struggling hotel.
There is a brilliant cast of characters in both books, but I particularly enjoyed the two sets of sisters. Cecily Treherne, who is missing, and her sister Lisa, are sisters at war. They have fought about anything and everything all their lives, to the point where Cecily once threw a knife at her sister, and Lisa was left with a permanent scar on her face. Lisa is cold blooded and determined, while Cecily is quieter and likes to please. Diametrically opposite to this pair is Susan, our intrepid editor/hotel proprietor/amateur sleuth, and her sister Katie who have absolutely nothing in common other than their enduring fondness for one another. Susan has never married and is childless, although she is in a relationship with Andreas, while Katie’s life is more traditional with an accountant husband, the requisite two children, the house, the garden and the community work.
Trouble will not confine itself to the warring sisters!
Moonflower Murders is a fun and fulfilling read. I love the clues that are scattered throughout (take note of the missing Mont Blanc pen, and of the dog who barked in the night!), and even the denouement, which is classic Christie, with everyone- suspects and otherwise – gathered together for the big reveal.
I hope that there are going to be many more books in this wonderful series.
If embarking on this series, I strongly recommend that you begin at the beginning with Magpie Murders, as there are references and a spoiler contained in Moonflower Murders.
‘The greatest evil occurs when people, no matter what their aims or their motives, become utterly convinced that they are right.’
THE AUTHOR: Anthony Horowitz’s life might have been copied from the pages of Charles Dickens or the Brothers Grimm. Born in 1956 in Stanmore, Middlesex, to a family of wealth and status, Anthony was raised by nannies, surrounded by servants and chauffeurs. His father, a wealthy businessman, was, says Mr. Horowitz, “a fixer for Harold Wilson.” What that means exactly is unclear — “My father was a very secretive man,” he says— so an aura of suspicion and mystery surrounds both the word and the man. As unlikely as it might seem, Anthony’s father, threatened with bankruptcy, withdrew all of his money from Swiss bank accounts in Zurich and deposited it in another account under a false name and then promptly died. His mother searched unsuccessfully for years in attempt to find the money, but it was never found. That too shaped Anthony’s view of things. Today he says, “I think the only thing to do with money is spend it.” His mother, whom he adored, eccentrically gave him a human skull for his 13th birthday. His grandmother, another Dickensian character, was mean-spirited and malevolent, a destructive force in his life. She was, he says, “a truly evil person”, his first and worst arch villain. “My sister and I danced on her grave when she died,” he now recalls.
A miserably unhappy and overweight child, Anthony had nowhere to turn for solace. “Family meals,” he recalls, “had calories running into the thousands&. I was an astoundingly large, round child&.” At the age of eight he was sent off to boarding school, a standard practice of the times and class in which he was raised. While being away from home came as an enormous relief, the school itself, Orley Farm, was a grand guignol horror with a headmaster who flogged the boys till they bled. “Once the headmaster told me to stand up in assembly and in front of the whole school said, ‘This boy is so stupid he will not be coming to Christmas games tomorrow.’ I have never totally recovered.” To relieve his misery and that of the other boys, he not unsurprisingly made up tales of astounding revenge and retribution.
Anthony Horowitz is perhaps the busiest writer in England. He has been writing since the age of eight, and professionally since the age of twenty. He writes in a comfortable shed in his garden for up to ten hours per day. In addition to the highly successful Alex Rider books, he has also written episodes of several popular TV crime series, including Poirot, Murder in Mind, Midsomer Murders and Murder Most Horrid. He has written a television series Foyle’s War, which recently aired in the United States, and he has written the libretto of a Broadway musical adapted from Dr. Seuss’s book, The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. His film script The Gathering has just finished production. And, oh yes, there are more Alex Rider novels in the works. Anthony has also written the Diamond Brothers series.
DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Random House UK, Cornerstone, Century for providing a digital ARC of Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
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