You may think you haven’t heard of Anthony Horowitz, but you’ve probably been eagerly consuming the various wonderful British TV series that he’s created or to which he’s contributed. Foyle’s War, anyone? Collision? Midsomer Murders? Agatha Christie’s Poirot? And then there are his entertaining mystery novels, like Moonflower Murders.
The prolific Horowitz has command of all the mystery genres and he riffs on them all. Moonflower Murders is the second in his Susan Ryeland series; it’s a classic country house murder with some twists. I read the first one in the series, Magpie Murders, when it came out in 2016 and enjoyed it, but, frankly, I couldn’t give you any details. Pure entertainment goes into the fizzy portion of my brain and when the fizz vanishes, so does the plot. (That’s not a criticism of the book!)
It’s hard to give a short plot summary of this mystery because it’s layered and has a complicated setup (but it’s very easy to follow on the page). Susan Ryeland, the repeating character in the series, is a former fiction editor who’s now in Crete with her boyfriend; they own a small hotel. In her literary life, one of her most successful authors was Alan Conway, who wrote a very popular mystery series. Conway was murdered. A mystery author murdered? This is the first inkling for the reader that life and art will be very much intertwined.
A British couple, the Trehernes, come to see Susan and ask for her help. They own a posh boutique hotel in Suffolk where there was a grisly murder eight years earlier. Their daughter Cecily has just gone missing after reading a mystery that references that murder. The author of the mystery? Alan Conway, Susan’s murdered author. The Trehernes believe that their daughter saw something in Conway’s novel that related to the eight year old murder and now she’s in danger. They want Susan to visit the hotel and re-read the mystery to see if she can figure out what their daughter might have discovered. There is someone in jail for the murder, but it’s not at all clear that he did it. Is the real murderer after Cecily?
Susan’s intrigued and she needs a break from the hectic pace at the hotel in Crete, so off she goes. Then the fun starts: the multiple characters with motives, the secret financial problems, the red herrings, and the illicit relationships. Horowitz even includes the full text of Alan Conway’s earlier novel so the reader can try to find the answer for herself. It’s quite an entertaining romp.
In addition to Magpie Murders and Moonflower Murders, I read another Horowitz mystery, The Word is Murder, in which the author himself becomes Watson to a surly detective’s Sherlock. The connections between life and art in these novels are brilliant and fun. Horowitz’s style is just right for these mysteries: a little breezy, just the right level of detail to be atmospheric, and a raft of idiosyncratic characters.