Moonflower Murders is the second of the Susan Ryeland novels from the pen of Anthony Horowitz, following on from 2016’s Magpie Murders. Horowitz is a very proficient author and seems to be running a couple of series concurrently. I had recently read the third in his Hawthorne & Horowitz mysteries, A Line to Kill, which features the entertaining premise that the author himself is aiding a real-life investigator (grudgingly) and their strained relationship – as well as Horowitz’s (probably) fictional ruminations on the publishing industry – add an extra element to the proceedings. The Susan Ryeland series offers a different approach the modern novel – equally as engaging as the other – that a former editor of deceased crime writer Alan Conway is tasked with looking into one of his published novels in an effort to spot the clues highlighting the actual events of a contemporary murder (which acts as the framing story). It’s a rather complicated premise, this novel within a novel, but it makes for fascinating reading as the distinction between the framing story of today and the ‘golden-age’ setting of Conway’s Atticus Pund story – work in sharp contrast. There are also a plethora of easter-eggs and literary references which make reading these such good fun.
On the two books I’ve read so far, I preferred the 1950s golden-age setting more than the framing stories, and Horowitz makes a strong case for being an author who would succeed at the continuation novels of Agatha Christie, as Sophie Hannah has done with Poirot (albeit to varied success). Atticus Pund is very much a close shadow of our dear Belgian sleuth (although this time he’s a German Jew), and Horowitz shares Christie’s skill at plotting and delivering a satisfying slice of golden-age mystery. I really hope this series will continue. Later on in the year there will be a new Miss Marple short story anthology featuring twelve new tales written by a dozen of the genre’s best female authors, so hopefully it sells well enough to warrant new interest in the character, and brings about the commission of new novels featuring Miss Marple. I’d love to see what Horowitz could do with this. Moonflower Murders comes highly recommended.