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Literature / Moonflower Murders

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Moonflower Murders is a 2020 mystery novel by Anthony Horowitz.

It is the sequel to his novel Magpie Murders, and like that one, involves a story within a story. Two years after Magpie Murders, Susan Ryeland is still on Crete, trying to run a boutique hotel with her Greek fiance Andreas. They are barely keeping their heads above water financially, and the stress involved with operating a struggling hotel is taking its toll on her relationship with Andreas. Additionally, Susan is missing her old career as an editor and the world of books in general.

So she's not displeased when she is approached by a British couple, Lawrence and Pauline Treherne, with a job offer. Their daughter, Cecily, has disappeared. Immediately before she disappeared Cecily had been wondering about a tragic event that took place on her wedding day eight years before. Frank Parris, a businessman staying at the hotel, was found murdered in his room as Cecily and her husband Aiden were at their wedding reception. The handyman Stefan Tedrescu was convicted of the crime but Cecily came to realize he didn't do it. She realized this after reading an Alan Conway novel, Atticus Pünd Takes the Case. Conway had been to the Treherne hotel where Parris was murdered and used events from that killing as inspiration. Cecily's parents have come to Susan, Alan's editor, hoping that she can figure out what in the book tipped Cecily off, and how it's connected to Cecily's disappearance.

No relation to Killers of the Flower Moon.


  • Asshole Victim: Frank Parris, an arrogant creep and a Depraved Homosexual who was into abusive, degrading BDSM sex. Averted with Melissa in the story-within-a-story, who was a perfectly nice person.
  • Author Appeal: Once again, Alan Conway filled his book with puzzles and Easter eggs to amuse himself. The characters in Atticus Pund Takes the Case all have last names matching those of detective fiction authors, the name of a killer in that book is an anagram for that of the person who killed Frank Parris, and references to "Leo" or lions are scattered throughout the book, another hint that the killer is Aiden who is a Leo and worked as a rentboy under that name.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Susan and Andreas once again are going through difficulty in their relationship. She nearly cheats on him in England but resists the temptation, and later, she's concerned that he's planning to leave her. Instead, he saves her life again and is there alongside her as support for the big Summation Gathering.
  • Cheated Death, Died Anyway: In Atticus Pünd Takes The Case, Melissa is strangled by her husband. She is still alive, just nearly unconscious, when she calls her boyfriend to come over, and then he kills her, also via strangulation.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Cecily's fondness for anagrams. It meant that she was able to figure out that Madeline Cain = Aiden MacNeil.
  • Contrasting Sequel Antagonist: Robert killed Pye to protect his future with Joy to hide his past crimes. Aiden killed Frank to hide his past as a sex worker, but he never loved Cecily and was only with her for her money, brutally killing her with no remorse.
  • Cozy Mystery: Deconstructed. The Atticus Pünd books are usually pretty straight examples (though not without darker hints in the vein of a traditional Agatha Christie novel). Susan's mysteries are often much more sordid and far from cozy, reflecting their modern origins. Notably, in Conway's novel, both killers calmly give up, while in the main story Aiden stabs a policeman and runs off, only to commit suicide.
  • Dead All Along: Cecily was murdered by Aiden on the day she disappeared, so Susan's investigation is technically fruitless.
  • The Dead Guy Did It: Subverted. In Atticus Pund Takes The Case, Francis Pendleton is stabbed to death after the strangulation of his wife, the famous actress Melissa. It's revealed that Francis was killed in an act of vengeance by Melissa's Loony Fan Madeline because he had strangled Melissa. The twist is that while he did that, he didn't kill her - he strangled her into unconsciousness and thought she was dead. Melissa revived, called her lover, and he strangled her to death.
  • Depraved Homosexual: Frank was into very young sex workers and BDSM, with Frazer noting that he was into extreme violence and he tried to blackmail Aiden into having sex with him on his wedding night.
  • Downer Beginning: The story opens with Susan in Greece, complaining about the struggling hotel, how much she misses her work as an editor, and how the struggling hotel is putting stress on her relationship with Andreas.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • In Atticus Pünd Takes The Case, Nancy attempts suicide because she's pregnant. Thanks to Pünd's intervention, it becomes a Happily Failed Suicide.
    • Aiden kills himself at the end by jumping in front of a train.
  • Epilogue Letter: Played with. Although not technically the epilogue, Susan leaves to go back to Greece and then receives the letter from Lawrence and the suicide note from Aiden, which is the final word we hear from the Trehernes or any of the single-book characters.
  • Evil Counterpart: Aiden is one for James Taylor. Both are young Gold Digger men who were paid for sex by wealthy older men; while James genuinely grew to care for Alan, Aiden always hated being forced to have very violent sex with Frank, and then murdered him for trying to blackmail him for sex on his wedding night to Cecily.
  • Evil Cripple and Mental Handicap, Moral Deficiency: In Conway's novel, Eric isn't a murderer, but he is The Peeping Tom who is presented as stunted specifically because of his club foot and treated as though this is somehow linked to his cognitive issues. Susan notes how unfortunate this is in-universe.
  • Exact Words:
    • "It was staring me in the face from the very first page." Cecily means both the dedication to Leo and Madeline's full name in the character page.
    • "We've met before." Susan takes this to mean at the front desk. In reality, Alan recognized Aiden from his sordid past as Leo.
  • Expy: Atticus Pünd is a clear stand in for Hercule Poirot, although he's German instead of Belgian and given a backstory of escaping the Holocaust.
  • Fake Faint: Madeline pretends to faint over the violence so that she can hide her letters to Melissa.
  • Faux Yay: Aiden is a victim of this; unlike James, he isn't gay, he's straight, but desperation drove him to prostitute himself to older men.
  • Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: Bad adultery is Susan's considered affair with Craig (though she doesn't actually do it), and Melissa's in-story affair with Leonard, who murdered her to conceal it; good adultery is Cecily cheating on the sociopathic Aiden, who eventually murdered her, with Stefan.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: In the sequel, Moonflower Murders, someone intimately involved with the case the book-within-a-book Atticus Pünd Takes the Case is based on is able to tell who the killer was from the very first page: the book is dedicated to the victim and their killer.
  • Idyllic English Village: Atticus Pünd Takes The Case is set in Tawleigh-on-the-Water in rural Devon, a small town where everybody knows everybody, set around a country hotel. It's an expy for the equally fictional but no less warm and inviting Branlow Hall in Woodbridge, Suffolk.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: In-universe for Moonflower Murders and the Pünd book Atticus Pünd Takes The Case. Madeline Cain doesn't appear in Pünd's Last Case from Magpie Murders, because she's been replaced by James Fraser. This spoils fairly early that she's going to go in some way; she actually kills Melissa's husband after she believes that he killed Melissa.
  • Loony Fan: Melissa has a few. Including Madeline Cain.
  • Meaningful Name: Roxana. The meaningful part is that it's a Romanian name, like Stefan.
  • Meta Fiction: The same conceit as the first book, but this one twists this approach somewhat — Susan is aware right from the start that she's in a murder mystery, and we don't get to the novel-within-a-novel (Atticus Pünd Takes the Case) until nearly halfway into the book.
  • Metaphorically True: "For Frank and Leo, in remembrance." It sounds to Susan like Alan means Leo and Frank both died. In fact, it refers to Conway's memory of what happened.
  • Name of Cain: Madeline Cain, Atticus's Girl Friday in the novel-within-a-novel. She murdered Melissa's husband for thinking he killed Melissa, of whom she was a Loony Fan, and shows zero remorse because he was keeping her from the screen, even after finding out that she was wrong.
  • Not Actually His Child: Roxana is Stefan's daughter, not Aiden's.
  • Padding: In-Universe. Atticus Pünd Takes The Case had an entire chapter about the theft of a jewel, the Ludendorff Diamond, that had nothing at all to do with the rest of the story but was presented as another cool Atticus Pünd case. Susan remembers how she tried to talk Alan Conway into cutting that chapter out, only to realize that the book was pretty short as it was and would probably be too short for a novel if that chapter were cut.
  • Predatory Prostitute: Male prostitute Leo is suspected of having murdered Frank Parrish in revenge for his brutal "sex games". And he did. Even worse, "Leo" is actually Aiden, Cecily's husband, married her exclusively for her money, and then killed Frank because he tried to force him into having sex on their wedding night.
  • Shady Real Estate Agent: Aiden met his wife Cecily while he was showing her a house — and he was also squatting in a swish flat so he could appear wealthy, and using it to prostitute himself. Although he worked at a hotel by then, he also murdered Cecily when she found out that he'd killed one of his clients.
  • Shout-Out: Susan notices that all the characters in Atticus Pünd Takes the Case are named for mystery novelists. But beyond that, Madeline Cain is reading a Mary Westmacott novel—that is the pen name that Agatha Christie used when writing her romance novels.
  • Significant Anagram: The name of the killer in Atticus Pünd Takes the Case is an anagram of the name of the killer in the real murder.
  • Storyboard Body: Aiden's tattoo is a Leo symbol, telling Susan that he is Leo, the prostitute that Frank used.
  • Summation Gathering: Atticus Pund gives one, Moonflower Murders, which is invoked by Susan. She says she wanted Conway to cut it because she found it out of character for Pund to humiliate one of the suspects that way, but Conway wouldn't budge.
    • Susan also gives one, but unintentionally; she said she didn't expect Laurence to bring his whole family along.
  • Theme Naming: Conway gives the characters in every Atticus Pünd novel a differently-themed last name: it's crime writers in Moonflower Murders.
  • Two Aliases, One Character: Leo and Aiden are the same person.
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic: Invoked in-universe.
    • Susan, as Alan's editor, said she found the character of Eric Chandler very unsavory, given that he was The Peeping Tom who watched Melissa dress, and felt he should receive more of a comeuppance in Atticus Pünd Takes The Case.
    • She also says that she found Atticus unsympathetic for choosing to reveal Nancy's pregnancy during The Summation and putting her through the trauma of being there, despite knowing that Nancy couldn't have killed Melissa and Nancy's suicide attempt.