Moonflower Murders: A Novel
“Moonflower Murders will be either adored or dreaded by readers, with no middle ground. Dare to open it if you’re ready to face both page length and puzzle solving.”
Moonflower Murders is a sequel to the noted Magpie Murders, and events follow from the earlier book. However, Anthony Horowitz gives plenty of guideposts for those entering the series at this point, as publisher Susan Ryeland is called back to England to deal with a mess created by her now-deceased author, Alan Conway. Conway’s fiction involved detective Atticus Pünd at a hotel clearly duplicating one where an owner is now missing and presumed murdered herself. And it all seems to result from the fictional crime and criminals, who are distorted versions of the “real” people at and around the existing hotel.
That should be adequate warning to readers that this is a puzzle mystery, one where the clues interlink and echo through two or more layers of narrative. Moreover, the book is a page-turner where suspense keeps ramping up, as various figures experience threats, and Susan agonizes over whether she could have prevented the whole mess. She has, in the past, tried to corral her author and get him to present a more logical and less malicious work. But as she soon enough discovers, all the perverse twists that Conroy inserted in his murder mystery are deliberate hints toward a real-life murderer who has already struck at the posh hotel, with an immigrant employee seized and convicted of the crime.
The missing British hotel co-owner, Cecily, worked out that the Romanian immigrant had been framed, and was about to pursue justice, when she abruptly vanished. And, of course, the closer Susan gets to figuring out means, motive, and opportunity for the real killer, the more risk she draws toward herself.
“Once outside I found myself face to face with the nanny, Eloise . . . She was furious. In a way it was a repeat of what had happened that morning with Joanne Williams—yet this was different. The emotion coming from her was so strong, so pronounced, that I was actually quite shocked. . . .
“‘Who are you?’ she asked.
“‘I’m a friend of the family. I’ve been asked to help.’
‘We don’t need help. We just need to be left alone.’ She had a French accent that belonged in an art house film. Her eyes locked on to mine.
“I brushed past her and walked back towards the hotel. When I was some distance away, I turned back to take a last look at the house. She was still there, standing on the doorstep, watching me, warning me not to come back.”
In a surprising twist of the Moonflower Murders, the entire clue-laden earlier manuscript that triggered the latest death is inserted within the book—so, as readers discover, there are two books included here, for a giant total of 581 suspicion-packed pages. In the tradition of Agatha Christie, the characters are trapped together, and the clues are abundant, but perhaps only Susan Ryeland has the motivation to assemble them all and dare to accuse the killer.
The book’s size recalls mysteries of an earlier age—such as a Wilkie Collins crime novel. And like Hercule Poirot, Susan Ryeland’s contribution to solving the crime won’t come from her daring as much as from her determination to solve the puzzle created by her own rather wicked former author.
Moonflower Murders will be either adored or dreaded by readers, with no middle ground. Dare to open it if you’re ready to face both page length and puzzle solving. It should also appeal to those who adored Stuart Turton’s The 7½ Lives of Evelyn Hardcastle. Ready, get set, solve the puzzle!