The Moonflower Murders

SUMMARY – The 10-second review

Moonflower Murders | Anthony Horowitz

Moonflower Murders is a marvelous, intriguing, page-turning, fun puzzle that’s complex yet very readable.

The publisher’s blurb and cover reviews don’t really do this book justice. Yes, they say how good it is, but they leave you with the feeling that it might be a bit longer and more complicated than you’re looking for (“fiendishly complex”, “sophisticated”, “literary”). The first pages don’t help because they don’t exactly suck you in from page one.

Don’t let any of that put you off! It’s a great read, and while it is indeed very clever, well written and yes, literary in a sense, the pages just fly by.

It’s twisty, but not that hard to get your head around.

Two for the price of one

Moonflower Murders features a book within a book. It’s the ‘mise en abyme’ literary device of a story within a story, with the ‘internal’ story revealing themes and character motivations that throw light on the ‘external’ story. Not only do you get two whole novels for your money, the two enrich each other. (I’m tempted to bring out that cringeworthy cliché ‘one plus one equals three’, but I won’t. Promise.)

In the ‘real’ story, a young woman, Cecily, is missing and her family suspect it’s connected to a murder 8 years before. That murder was the inspiration for a crime novel by Alan Conway (called Atticus Pünd Takes the Case). Apparently Conway, now dead, knew who the true murderer was (someone else was convicted). On reading Atticus, Cecily figured it out, but she disappeared before she could tell anyone. Our protagonist, Susan Ryeland, who had edited Atticus, is called in to try to reexamine it to find clues to Cecily’s disappearance. The entire Atticus novel is included within Moonflower Murders.

Classic crime with a contemporary zest

Nobody loves a classic, Golden Age English crime novel, à la Agatha Christie, more than I do. Both Moonflower Murders and the Atticus are homages to the form. What’s fun is that the latter is a very classic homage (and flawlessly done), while Moonflower Murders is a homage with a contemporary savor.

If you know and love early British crime literature, you’ll enjoy how Horowitz uses the classic tropes and literary devices, reproducing them in Atticus and bringing them up to date in Moonflower Murders. There’s a great range of characters, from wholesome and likeable to nasty and despicable.

I had already read Magpie Murders, the first book in this series, which also featured a book within a book. I’ve the memory of a goldfish though, so struggled to recall it. While it would have helped if my memory of it had been a bit fresher, it wasn’t really a problem. This book can be read as a standalone. That said, Magpie Murders is a wonderful read too (I remember that much), so if you haven’t read it, start there!

My thanks to the publisher, the author and Netgalley for giving me a free copy of this book. All my reviews are 100% honest and unbiased, regardless of how I acquire the book.

You might also like: Penhallow – Georgette Heyer

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