Following the events in Magpie Murders, Susan Ryeland has taken a step away from the publishing world and is now running a hotel on a Greek island. She misses parts of her old life though (although not the bit when someone tried to kill her) and when she meets Lawrence and Pauline Treherne and listens to what they have to say, she makes the decision to return to England.
Lawrence and Pauline tell her about a murder at their own hotel, what had appeared to be an open and shut case. But when their daughter Cecily read Atticus Pünd Takes The Case, she was convinced that the book proved that the wrong person had been sent away for the crime. And then Cecily disappeared without trace… It seems that she was right and that someone is desperate to keep the truth buried forever.
Atticus Pünd Takes The Case was the third book in the acclaimed series by Alan Conway and was released in 2009. That was the year before I started my blog, back when I was writing my reviews on paper and throwing them out of the window so that anyone passing could read them. By coincidence, the review for this one must have blown back in through the window, as I found it down the back of the sofa yesterday. Let’s see what I thought about the original novel.
“I’m delighted that Atticus Pünd has made another appearance in print. I know some people seem him as a Poirot clone, but I think there’s more to him than that. He doesn’t suffer from Poirot’s vanity, and his background is more fleshed out his Belgian counterpart. It seems odd that a German in post-war England doesn’t get treated more negatively, especially when he needs to exert his authority, but pairing him with a well-respected local policeman who sees him as an asset, rather than as an interfering foreigner, does help.
In this case, Pünd is asked by the agent of Melissa James, a fading Hollywood actress, to investigate her death. She telephoned for help, but by the time help arrived, she was dead, strangled. But why would her killer allow her to make such a phone call? It’s a relatively simple premise, but everyone has a motive while nobody has an opportunity, despite everyone acting suspiciously at times.
It’s an intricately plotted affair, with everything meaning something. There is one event early on that never seems to take on the importance it is given (although it is an essential part of the plot) and one aspect towards the end that seemed a bit obvious to me.
I do hope Conway writes these books for many years to come. Atticus Pünd – you know, there’s something about that name that bothers me. Never mind, I’ll work it out one day. Atticus Pünd is a great lead character and the mysteries are completely fair play for fans of the Golden Age. You know what, it’s such a pleasure to find a modern mystery written with such a fair play mindset, I might start looking for more. I could even start writing one of those new-fangled blog things that I hear so much about…”
The whole of Conway’s book is reprinted in Moonflower Murders, but that’s barely half the book, as the other half details Susan’s investigating into the original murder and Cecily’s disappearance. Well, actually, she doesn’t really investigate the second bit, just the original murder which leads to the truth about the whole thing.
Anthony Horowitz crafted a great book-within-a-book, a mystery-within-a-mystery in Magpie Murders, but when I heard of the sequel, I had concerns that he was trying to bottle lightning twice. I needn’t have worried. The modern day mystery is extraordinarily well done, with red herrings a-plenty. Sometime I worry that I have read to many mysteries to be surprised. While I didn’t solve either book, I wasn’t desperately surprised by the murderer in Atticus Pünd Takes The Case, although I did miss many important elements, but clearly Horowitz is a better writer than Conway, as he completely blindsided me with the crime in the modern day story. It’s impeccably plotted and I’m not convinced I’ve seen a more masterful set of red herrings flying – well, swimming around.
Susan is a great lead, as while her personal issues by no mean dominate the narrative, they are skilfully woven throughout so you end up caring about her and her choices in life. One aspect that concerned me as I was reading it was why Conway had apparently hidden clues to a real murder in a novel, rather than, say, telling the police, but the rationale behind that works beautifully.
If you enjoyed Magpie Murders, then you’ll love Moonflower Murders even more. The more I think about it, the more I think the sequel is an even better book. But if you haven’t read Magpie Murders, then read them both! You won’t regret it.
Many thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for the review e-copy. Moonflower Murders is out on Thursday 20th August.
[NB Just in case, as my sense of humour has confused people before, yes, I know Horowitz wrote both “books”. Just having a bit of a laugh, mostly with myself, as usual…]