Updated: Oct 20
“Pünd had never seen murder as a game, not even as a puzzle to be solved. His work was an examination of humanity at its darkest and most desperate. You could not solve crime unless you understood its genesis.”
I am an honest person. I like when it rains, I hate when my room is messy (yet somehow it always is) and I enjoy studying for math tests. All things considered, I have never been let down by a murder mystery. The jealous ex-boyfriend who turns out to be plotting a sick and twisted assassination. The seemingly innocuous mother-in-law who decides poison was the best way to put someone 6-feet-under. A man who stages his own death then kills off the rest of the innocent souls one by one.
Though the outcome is always predictable, the buildup of a murder mystery grants the reader the most satisfaction. That said, most murder mystery books are written by brilliant authors. Agatha Christie for example, or, writing in a more youth-adult genre, Karen McManus. The genius minds of these creators never cease to amaze me.
My ‘to-be-read’ shelf was overflowing, and I decided that maybe I should read a new thriller that had been sitting at the bottom of my pile for a while. Anthony Horowitz’s “Moonflower Murders” was condescending at first. It appeared perennial, hundreds of pages. Despite this, I started to read it and was not let down. The characters, the plot, the mystery, and the sheer eeriness of it put forth an excellent read.
The book starts off on a small Greek island, where Susan Ryeland, the protagonist, a middle-aged woman, consumed with too-much wine, and too-little happiness lives with her partner, a muscular and very Greek man named Andreas. Susan is from London and was a past editor, but she shipped herself off to Greece in hopes of living a more lavish life.
The couple owns and operates a dying hotel, where cheap prices are the most they can offer. Now, Susan is exhausted with making everything work on the island when nothing ever does. Truth be told, she’s beginning to miss London. Her family, the vintage tea and, especially, her job.
“Everything in life has a pattern and a coincidence is simply the moment when the pattern becomes briefly visible.”
This short-lived Greek vacation suddenly erupts when Susan is approached by a rich, wealthy and creepy English couple called the Trehearnes. They come with a strange story about an unfortunate murder that took place on the same day and in the same hotel in which their daughter was married. Farlingaye Halle was the name of the inn, on the Suffolk coast surrounded by willow trees and ponds with lily pads.
Alan Conway, one of Susan’s former writers, knew the murder victim, Frank Parris, a little too closely. They had a romantic relationship that nobody knew about. Conway was rude and, simply, a jerk. Conway once visited Farlingaye Hall and even based the third book in his detective series “Atticus Pund Takes the Case” on the very same crime. Susan edited this book, knowing its ins and outs.
Soon-to-be-wed Cecily, the Trehearne’s daughter, read Conway’s mystery and believes the book proves that the man convicted of Parris’ murder, a Spanish criminal, is innocent. Unfortunately, Conway is dead and cannot give any information to the yearning couple.
The suspense doesn’t end there when the Trehearnes reveal that Cecily is now missing. Susan knows that she must return to England and find out what really happened.
She begins her investigation by interviewing Lisa, Cecily’s underappreciated sister. She is wicked, bitter, unattractive and a character that Susan believes could be a potential suspect. But then there is the Trehernes’ French nanny, who is equally as suspicious. The list of suspects continues to develop, but answers are not being found. Interview after interview, and numberless hours inspecting the grounds of the inn, Susan begins re-reading Conway’s mystery for what seems like the hundredth time to try and catch a glimpse at what Cecily found in Conway’s book that links to the murder that happened at the hotel.
“It felt strange. I was about to read one murder mystery while sitting inside another.” This story begins with Horowitz’s version of the story, but then about part-way through, we begin to read Alan Conways “Atticus Pund Takes the Case.” It’s clever and evil – simply the best two words to describe a great murder mystery read.