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MOONFLOWER MURDERS by Anthony Horowitz: Book Review

Moonflower Murders is a mystery novel with another mystery novel tucked inside it, a tour de force.  The talented and extremely prolific Anthony Horowitz has done it again.

Susan Ryeland was first introduced in Magpie Murders, a novel I greatly enjoyed but strangely didn’t review in this blog.  Well, I’m not about to make that same mistake with Susan’s second appearance.

In Magpie Murders, Susan was working in a publishing house and editing Alan Conway’s most recent novel.  Several years have gone by since then, and Conway has died.  Difficult as he was in life, he remains equally so in death.  One of Conway’s novels is what brings Susan to Branlow Hall at the request of the hotel’s owners, Lawrence and Pauline Treherne, to investigate the disappearance of their older daughter Cecily.

Eight years before Moonflower Murders opens, Cecily Treherne marries Aiden MacNeil at the family’s hotel.  Immediately after the ceremony the body of a guest, Frank Parris, is discovered in his room, and the wedding dissolves into chaos.  After a brief investigation, one of the hotel’s employees, a Romanian immigrant named Stefan Codrescu, confesses to the murder.  Stefan has been imprisoned ever since, but Cecily has continued to insist that he is innocent of the crime.

Just before she went missing, as the British say, Cecily calls her parents to tell them that she has proof that Stefan is innocent, proof that she found at the beginning of Alan Conway’s murder mystery Atticus Pünd Takes the Case.  The Trehernes tell Susan that several weeks after Parris was murdered, Conway came to Branlow Hall and stayed for a few weeks, interviewing family members and staff; he later published Atticus Pünd Takes the Case, obviously basing his book on the murder that took place at the hotel.

Now the Trehernes want to hire Susan to look into their daughter’s disappearance because she was the editor of Conway’s book.  They offer Susan ten thousand pounds to return to England from Greece, where she and her almost-fiancé own a small and less luxurious hotel than Branlow Hall, and find their daughter.  They don’t agree with Cecily’s belief that Stefan is innocent and don’t want her to investigate Parris’ death; their only wish is for Susan to locate the missing woman.

In true Golden Age style, there is a small group of people with a motive for murder, or, in this case, possibly a motive for murders This includes, but is not limited to Lisa, Cecily’s sister; Aiden, Cecily’s husband; Joanne and Martin Williams, sister and brother-in-law of Frank Parris; Eloise Radmoni, Cecily and Aiden’s daughter’s nanny; and Derek Endicott, an employee of Treherne’s hotel.  And the motives are the usual ones–jealousy, greed, and fear.

The most fascinating part of Moonflower Murders is that there is another complete book inside it–the aforementioned Atticus Pünd novel.  It’s a really clever conceit, so you’re actually reading two novels in one.  If you enjoy Golden Age mysteries that conclude with the protagonist confronting all the suspects in the library, or in this case the hotel’s lounge, you will love Moonflower Murders.

Anthony Horowitz, in addition to being the author of several adult mysteries, also writes the Alex Rider series for young adults and created both “Midsomer Murders” and “Foyle’s War” for PBS.  You can read more about him at this site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden Oldies, Past Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.

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