Saturday, November 26, 2022

Anthony Horowitz - Moonflower Murders

Retired publisher Susan Ryeland is running a small hotel on a Greek island with her long-term boyfriend. But life isn’t as idyllic as it should be: exhausted by the responsibility of making everything work on an island where nothing ever does, Susan is beginning to miss her literary life in London – even though her publishing career once entangled her in a lethal literary murder plot.
So when an English couple come to visit with tales of a murder that took place in a hotel the same day their daughter Cecily was married there, Susan can’t help but find herself fascinated.
And when they tell her that Cecily has gone missing a few short hours after reading Atticus Pund Takes The Case, a crime novel Susan edited some years previously, Susan knows she must return to London to find out what has happened.
The clues to the murder and to Cecily’s disappearance must lie within the pages of this novel.
But to save Cecily, Susan must place her own life in mortal danger…

Comment: Two months ago I've read and loved Magpie Murders, the first book I tried by this author. I'm now thankful I'm only reading these books now, because I could simply pick this second one instead of having to wait the years it took until it was published. The stories aren't linear sequels, but this second one has enough references to the first that reading in order is absolutely necessary.

The protagonist Susan is now living in Crete with her boyfriend but it is clear that things at their hotel aren't as simple and carefree as she might imagined, once everything was ready. When a British couple shows up, Susan immediately knows they have money and aren't there to book a stay with them. Lawrence and Pauline came to Crete to speak to Susan personally because heir daughter Cecily has been missing and they believe it has something to do with a book by Alan Conway, whose editor was Susan. Apparently, Cecily noticed some kind of clue in a book which is obviously based on the family's hotel in the UK and in a crime which happened there. Soon after making a phone call to her parents about it, she wasn't seen anymore. Susan isn't certain if she can really help but the couple will pay her "work" investigating what Cecily might have seen in the book and the fact she does want to be back in the UK also works to convince her. Will she be able to find anything? Could it be she will be in danger herself?

I did find the other book clever because of all the connections and clues and ideas, not only related to the main plot but also to the story within the story. The author must have a wonderful imagination and organizational skills to keep everything steady or, at least, a very good editor too, to help him with all the details that need to make sense! Once again, this was a very clever book and I think I liked it slightly more than the first!

The structure of this novel is pretty much the same as the other book, but the fictional book featuring Atticus Pund, which was introduced early on in the first book comes up a bit more towards the middle of the plot of this one. It's quite a treat how much effort and detail was put into creating that story. I actually think mr Horowitz could start his own "small town cozy mysteries during the 40s" series and those books would be quite a success! It's true they are smaller, more concise plots along the lines of Agatha Christie (an obvious influence), but so rewarding nevertheless.

However, I must say that despite my enjoyment in reading this story, I don't think the overall effect was as well achieved as it had happened in the other book, not only because the wow factor wasn't as obvious anymore, but also because I feel the real show stopper this time was the primary plot regarding Susan and the people she interacts with at the hotel and in her investigation. It felt as if that was the actual mystery to be concerned with, when in Magpie Murders I felt the focus was divided equally into the two plots.

Susan's investigation was very clever and easy to follow, even though I'll confess at some point I did wonder if the killer wasn't a certain someone, based on one clue but, of course at that point there were still plenty of red herrings to come out way... still, I was surprised by how everything came to happen but the killer's identity wasn't a complete novelty. The plot is still well thought, don't be mistaken; But I did think the reason why things happened that way could have been stronger. 

I also can't help thinking how unlikely it is that Susan, not a police officer or anything alike it, can so easily talk to people and they answer her questions... this is addressed a few times throughout the book so we know there's a valid reason but I think to myself, if I were involved, would I so easily want to speak with someone who is not an actual authority figure...? Oh well, it serves its purpose!

While all this happens and Susan talks to people and connects clues and we discover things, the big picture starts to come to life. The murder which happened at the hotel and that propelled the whole thing happened before the events of Magpie Murders which is quite funny to me, here we have a prequel regarding a book published but with events which are a sequel. It is quite ingenious and astute how the author planned everything. Some of the distractions and red herrings are also doubly clever because they offer possibilities but even those have a special meaning and get some kind of importance in the novel, unlike the times where things are used just so the reader doesn't guess things right away.

At some point, Susan realizes what really happened and she can finally explain to Lawrence and Pauline wat happened to Cecily and what she saw that sealed her fate. I still think some small details feel a little forced, like the initial clue Cecily sees in the book! Now I know what it was and how she would have made the connection she did but to be fair, it's not that obvious and the reason why it was for Cecily didn't fully convince me... still, when Susan explains things to the majority of characters, just like Poirot does in Agatha Christie's novels, it was quite a rush, to finally see the big picture.

I had such a wonderful time reading this, even with the flaws or the details I think could have been better, it was a very well done story. I certainly hope the author might write something else in this series or in this genre because it's a very consistent and rich work.
Grade: 9/10

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