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"Moonflower Murders," Reviewed by Pat Sainz

Updated: Dec 2, 2020

“Moonflower Murders,” by Anthony Horowitz, is a captivating mystery written in the vein of traditional mystery writers such as Agatha Christie and Raymond Chandler. Alert readers will pick up clues from the first chapters that will keep them guessing about the identity of the person who murdered two people. The victims are a staff member and a guest at a scenic inn on the eastern coast of England.

Susan Ryeland, the protagonist, is a former editor whose most famous client, the late Alan Conway, is a mystery writer. Susan was able to solve a murder based on clues in one of Conway’s early novels. Her detective skills, paired with her knowledge of people in Conway’s life and of his methods of writing, give her insight into Conway’s thinking.

Cecily Trehene, who runs the inn with her sister Lisa, read Conway’s second book, “Atticus Pund Takes the Case.” She recognizes clues and characters based loosely on the staff and guests Conway met when he visited the inn shortly after the murders. She contacts her father, telling him that she knows who committed the murders 8 years ago. Cecily disappears shortly after her phone call.

Cecily’s father contacts Susan Ryeland and offers her a large sum of much-needed money to help solve the mystery of the murders. Ryland, having been almost killed after investigating the previous homicide through her connection to Conway in his first novel, has left England and moved to Crete to run a small hotel with her partner.

Conway’s ability to reveal the criminals through clues in his books is a result of him knowing, often in nefarious ways, the victims or the murderers. Since his books were published, Conway himself has been murdered. (Horowitz’s previous book in the series, “The Magpie Murders” involves Conway and his editor, Susan Ryeland.)

In a masterful method of writing, Horowitz includes Conway’s fictional book within his own novel so the reader can begin looking for the same clues as Ryeland as she rereads the book that she edited. Conway’s book is incorporated seamlessly so this isn’t a distraction at all.

Even the book’s cover gives clues to the events unfolding in the story. The cover features a moonflower (a poisonous but beautiful vine Cecily liked that she named the hotel after), a book (a book within a book), a hammer (a murder weapon) and an X, (presumably meaning X marks the spot).

It is not necessary to have read “The Magpie Murders” to enjoy “Moonflower Murders,” but some of the main characters are introduced in the first book. Reading with an understanding of Horowitz’s style will help readers know to watch for clues from beginning to end.

Horowitz has written two books that may become classics in the vein of famous mystery writers. He didn’t plan on writing a series of books, but he responded to the clamor from his fans requesting a sequel to “The Magpie Murders.”

“Magpie Murders” will be adapted into a television movie soon, another testament to its popularity and fond reception by admirers of classic mysteries. I imagine we can expect the same for his second.

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