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Baum On Books

Book Review: Moonflower Murders

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British author and screenwriter Anthony Horowitz, is best known to American audiences  through his popular PBS series Foyle’s War and Midsommer Murders.  He’s now out with a new mystery novel.   It’s the sequel to his popular work, Magpie Murders.   And it’s a doozy!

Be prepared for a sure-fire diversion from the pandemic and politics.  Witty and consummately clever, like Magpie Murders,  Moonflower Murders plays with  allusions and references to murder-mystery masterpieces, especially from the likes of Agatha Christie,  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Stephen King and Ian Fleming,  not to mention Charles Dickens, his favorite author. Add a love of word games, especially anagrams and code, and knowledge of history as well as current events, and then watch Horowitz structure his signature achievement -- the nested narrative, embedding one book inside another. A double Whodunnit, with solutions dependent on seeing the relationship between both works.  Horowitz also likes to upend expectations to the very end, turning a premature “aha!” into an “oh wow!” In Moonflower Murders Horowitz once again relies on his fictional author who created a fictional detective, Atticus Pünd, a middle aged, semi-retired German-Greek-Jewish Holocaust survivor. Pünd  is the fictional brainchild  of the fictional Alan Conway, a fabulously successful murder mystery writer who has used Pünd in a nine-book series.  Add to the fun Conway’s admission in the framing tale, that he doesn’t even like his self-effacing Atticus Pünd, or writing murder mysteries. Add also that Conway’s longtime editor, Susan Ryeland  never liked her arrogant and often nasty author. When Moonflower Murders opens, Conway’s dead and Susan, 50 years old, is the narrator.  It’s 2016 or thereabouts. She’s living in Crete with her amour, but out of the blue is asked to help find a missing young woman in a sleepy English village on the east coast of England, where there was a brutal  murder eight years earlier. It seems that right before the young woman went missing, she, co-owner of a charming, upscale inn in that village, had phoned her parents in France with some uneasy news. She had just read Alan Conway’s third book in his Pünd series Atticus Pünd  Takes the Case, and saw unmistakable clues that led her to believe that the man arrested for the brutal murder at her inn, a Romanian immigrant, didn’t do it. And then, as Agatha Christie might say, the lady vanishes. Game on:  Moonflower Murders takes place in our day but looks back to 2008 when the murder at the inn was committed. Of course, Susan, Conway’s former editor, will reread Atticus  Pünd Takes the Case, which is set in the 1950s, to look for the clues. As will we. It’s the nested book. Moonflower Murders weighs in at close to 600 pages,  but there’s no way you won’t devour it in a few days and then start leafing back to see how Horowitz did it.