Crime Fiction in the Grand Tradition: Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz

March 7, 2021 at 8:54 pm (Anglophilia, Mystery fiction)

  What do I mean by ‘the grand tradition?” Well, I mean that Moonflower Murders is a whodunnit in the classic mode of Agatha Christie and her legion of imitators. Not that I would call Anthony Horowitz an imitator as such. On the contrary, he’s one of the more creative minds at work in the crime fiction field at the present time.

Susan Ryeland is a  former editor and publisher. As this novel opens, she is running a hotel and the island of Crete, along with her lover Andreas. (To find the reason for her sudden career switch, one must read Magpie Murders – a delightful task!) Susan finds herself summoned back to England  to help uncover the truth about the murder of a hotel guest named Frank Parris. The killing occurred in 2008 at Branlow Hall, an inn on the Suffolk coast. Adding urgency to the situation is the fact that Cecily Treherne, the daughter of Pauline and Lawrence Treherne, the hotel’s owners, has recently gone missing.

In her time as an editor, one of Susan’s authors had been Alan Conway, writer of a popular series of mysteries featuring Private Investigator Atticus Pund. Intrigued by the killing at Branlow Hall, Conway decides to make use of the crime in his next novel, to  be entitled Atticus Pund Takes the Case.

Cecily Treherne is married and the mother of a little girl. Before vanishing, she stated that she had unmasked  the true identity of the murderer of Frank Parris. How had she done this? By stumbling upon a crucial clue in Alan Conway’s novel.

Susan Ryeland realizes that in order to solve this present-day mystery, she must solve the past one as well. And to finally arrive at the truth concerning both, she must  revisit an experience that torpedoed her life’s work in 2008: She has to  read, for the second time, Atticus Pund Takes the Case.

And so she does, and so do we, right along with her. For this is not one book but two: The complete text of Alan Conway’s novel is contained within the pages of Moonflower Murders. I cannot forebear to mention that within the pages of Atticus Pund Takes the Case, I came across a reference that delighted me. It concerns the diminutive detective’s choice of reading matter to take on a rail journey:

Pund passed the time absorbed in a study that he had received from the highly respected American Academy of Forensic Sciences: an examination of the so-called Nutshell Studies of Frances Glessner Lee, who had constructed intricate models of complicated crime scenes in order to analyse them.

I first became aware of the Nutshell Studies when I was doing research for a course I taught several years ago. It was called Stranger Than Fiction: The Literature of True Crime. As for Frances Glessner Lee, she  became, almost accidentally, a pioneer in Forensic Science. I was fortunate enough to see the Nutshell Studies two years ago when  they were exhibited at the Renwick Gallery.

Meanwhile, on the same train trip alluded to above, Pund’s secretary Miss Cain was reading A Daughter’s a Daughter by Mary Westmacott. Mary Westmacott is a pseudonym used by Agatha Christie for works she wrote that were not in the crime fiction genre.

Moonflower Murders is a regular romp of a  novel. It contains no larger lessons about the human condition, at least none that I could  readily detect. It was written to entertain, and it succeeds beautifully. It’s long – some 580 pages – but I tore through it in a matter of days.

Anthony Horowitz is the creator of the tv series Foyle’s War; in addition, he wrote eleven episodes of Agatha Christie’s Poirot and six episodes of Midsomer Murders. He’s the author of the popular Alex Rider series for young adults as well as numerous other novels and plays. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If  there were an Anthony Horowitz Fan Club, I’d be in it.

Anthony Horowitz

 

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: