Category Archives: Crime

The Stranger Times by CK McDonnell

Bantam Press | 2021 (14 January) | 415p | Review copy | Buy the book

Hannah Willis has got all sorts of problems since leaving her husband, home and privileged life behind – not that she regrets it – and now, for the first time in her life, she needs to find a job. Apparently her qualifications, of which she has none, are perfect for The Stranger Times and, after a particularly peculiar interview, finds herself appointed as the assistant editor of this Manchester paper. Of course, this means she has to work for Vincent Bancroft, the Editor, one of the most obnoxious and unstable people you could meet, who has fallen on bad times and would like to take it out on anyone he meets and especially those he employs.

But this is no ordinary paper. Its unusual band of reporters are on the look out for the strange and unexplainable – whether it’s a haunted toilet or a dog that was eaten by homework. But even they aren’t ready for Moretti, a very short American who has just arrived in Manchester, who leaves behind him a trail of deaths, murder, misery and pure evil. Sometimes the monsters are real.

The Stranger Times has such a great premise – as well as being a really attractive hardback – and I couldn’t wait to read it. CK McDonnell is such a witty writer. He’s also a good observer of people and it’s the people that really give this novel its colour and shine. The focus is largely on the paper’s employees. I particularly liked Reggie, a well-mannered rather posh gentle man, who, on the rare occasions when he’s riled, comes out as the Scouser he presumably once once. But each of the characters has a story that makes reading about them entertaining, and also rather touching. Stella, the office girl or lost waif, is so well drawn. Hannah is the main character and carries the story well as she looks on with bemusement while being very ready to roll up her sleeves and get on with it.

Manchester is such a fantastic location and is a character in all its own right. I spent my teenage years near the place (in the glory days of the Hacienda) and I loved the reminder of familiar names and places. It’s a great city and I think that’s captured. It’s full of life but there’s also an undercurrent, a potential mythology to it, every bit as much as there is to London, and it’s good to see the novel is set away from the capitol.

The Stranger Times is undoubtedly a very entertaining read. I loved the extracts from the newspaper’s pages that can be found scattered throughout. I laughed a great deal. I must admit, though, that the urban fantasy, and the horror, at the heart of the novel doesn’t feel particularly innovative or new. My main issue, though, is the character of Vincent Bancroft. A reviewer on the back of the book mentions Mick Herron and I did find that Bancroft was just too similar to Jackson Lamb. I’m a huge fan of Lamb and so I did have trouble getting past this. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the laughs that The Stranger Times gave me and I became very fond of Hannah and Stella. And I loved spending time in Manchester again.

Shiver by Allie Reynolds

Headline | 2020 (21 January) | 432p | Review copy | Buy the book

Shiver by Allie ReynoldsFive old friends arrive in the remote French ski resort of Le Rocher for a reunion. Their past together had been a glorious one – they were professional snowboarders from more than one country, competing against one another in the exhilarating and dangerous Half Pipe competition. But that was ten years ago and it had ended in tragedy in this very place. Millie had been in two minds about whether to come, but the invitation had come from Curtis, a man she had always had feelings for, even though she had had a relationship with another of the five. And she knows that the reunion must have particular meaning for Curtis. His sister Saskia had died here all those years ago, her body never found, lost within the glacier. But Curtis, Millie learns, is there because of her. His invitation had come from Millie. And now they all find themselves in an isolated, empty resort and that’s when the games begin.

I absolutely adored Shiver! There has been a run recently of mysteries set in chalets and ski resorts and I cannot get enough of them. Shiver is the latest and it is fabulous. I’m a huge fan of ski sports, including the Half Pipe (from the warmth and comfort of my chair), and I am amazed by the skill and bravery of the athletes. It is an absolutely terrifying sport and this book gives real insight into the character of extreme sports and those who do it. All five are larger than life personalities. They have to be to do this thing. And this means that their relationships are intense, immediate and alive. I can’t say that I liked all of these people but I was mesmerised by them.

The location is fantastic. The action takes place off-season but Le Rocher is one of those places where ski sports can take place at any time due to the glacier, but what a dangerous place that is with its deep, hidden crevices. This means that the hotel is empty. The friends find no staff. It’s a frightening place, even before it all sets off. But Millie, Curtis, Brent, Dale and Heather still find themselves come alive in this place, reminded of those days ten years ago. Their lives are nothing like that now and they can reclaim some of that excitement from the past. I loved that sense of adventure and resilience and mourned with them the passing of the years and their youth. But then there is a real shift as they realise the danger they are in. It’s hugely exciting and a real pageturner.

This is another of those ‘locked room’ mysteries. They work so well in remote wintry settings and it’s very effective here. It’s dangerous outside but perhaps even more so inside. The tension and sense of danger builds further with the parallel story of the tragic events from ten years ago, which are told from Millie’s perspective. Millie is struggling to reach the snowboarding levels of Brent, Curtis and Saskia and there is a very real rivalry between Saskia and Millie as they compete for places in the British snowboarding team. Their rivalry becomes a monster but it is also complicated by some intense and complicated feelings. I love how Allie Reynolds brings the young Millie to life. She feels very real. And then there’s Saskia.

Allie Reynolds clearly knows a great deal about the snowboarding world and this fills the novel, giving it a satisfying air of authenticity and insight. The danger of this sport! I knew it was dangerous but I had no idea. That’s one side of the very real appeal of this novel. The other is the fantastic building of tension, rivalry, and danger matched by the eerie location and the sinister mood. And yet there’s a beauty here – the landscape, the glorious jumps of the snowboarders in the half pipe and the pure exuberance of youth, a time that is destroyed. What perfect reading this is for these cold winter nights.

There are some absolutely gorgeous hardback editions of this on the way so do look out for one of those.

The Coffinmaker’s Garden by Stuart MacBride

HarperCollins | 2021 (7 January) | 496p | Review copy | Buy the book

The Coffinmaker's Garden by Stuart MacBrideA massive storm batters the Scottish coast, leaving the home of Gordon Smith on the edge of collapse, its garden and cellar collapsing over the cliff – revealing bones, lots and lots of bones. Ex-DI Ash Henderson, now working for the Lateral Investigative Review Unit (LIRU) alongside Police Scotland, enters the building and manages to grab some evidence before he only just manages to escape with his life as the storm claims the building. But he has saved photos of men, women and children, decades of victims, tortured to death in this house by a man who is now on the run.

This isn’t the only crime facing the city of Oldcastle. Young children are being stolen and murdered. Another boy has just gone missing. DI ‘Mother’ Malcolmson knows that time is running out if she is to find the child alive. Ash and forensic psychologist Dr Alice McDonald, move between the two cases, slowly moving from within the confines of the law to beyond it, especially when Ash discovers that Gordon Smith’s killing spree has not been stopped by the storm. Ash will be helped by a succession of women and men to try and bring these killers down.

Stuart MacBride is back. My favourite crime writer and I can think of no better way to kick off my 2021 reading habit. I adore all of his books, whether they feature Logan McRae, Roberta Steel, Callum McGregor, Mother Malcolmson or Ash Henderson. Every book is a triumph (A Dark So Deadly is my favourite crime novel of all time, followed by Now We Are Dead) and The Coffinmaker’s Garden is no different. It’s been a while since we’ve spent time with Ash and Alice. It’s good to see them back. Ash is battered and bruised, physically and emotionally. He has suffered. But he’s like a dog gnawing on a bone. His grip is total, his resilience incredible – he keeps getting up again, supported by Alice, a verbose, kind alcoholic, his best friend ageing detective Shifty and Henry, the dog that keeps on giving. I don’t think it matters a jot if you haven’t read the previous two novels. All is made clear here and we’re off and running from page one.

The plot is every bit as deliciously complex as you could wish for. You’ll get no details of that from me. The story lines weave around one another, pulling in a host of extra characters who are all three-dimensional and all populate this curious city of Oldcastle (a sort of Aberdeen but greyer, bleaker, wetter and far more dangerous – although Logan McRae might have something to say about that), which is a character in its own right. I loved meeting Rosalind Franklin (I think only Ash could win her over, or Henry) and Helen MacNeil, a tour de force. Other characters are so intensely villainous, they’re a joy to read, even if you have can only look with one eye squinting.

This is a gory and violent book in places (although not as gory and violent as it could have been) but it is also brilliantly written and so fantastically witty. I don’t know what it is about Stuart MacBride’s writing but he always manages to set me off with a turn of phrase. It is shocking, there is no doubt of that. These are brutal crimes. I sometimes think that it might be easier for Ash if he just put himself in an olive press and had done with it, get all of the bruises and crushings out of the way in one go.

I could sing the praises of this fabulous novel all day. Nobody does it like Start MacBride. Long may he reign.

Other reviews
Logan McRae series
In the Cold Dark Ground
A Dark So Deadly
Now We Are Dead
The Blood Road

All That’s Dead

The Stasi Game by David Young

Zaffre | 2020 (31 December) | 384p | Review copy | Buy the book

The Stasi Game by David YoungThe Stasi Game is the sixth and very possibly final novel in David Young’s superb series featuring DDR detective Karin Müller and her assistant Werner Tilsner. While you could certainly enjoy this novel as a stand alone read, I heartily recommend that you read the others first. Karin’s story, and Werner’s, is a compelling one and this is in many ways its conclusion, making it all the more powerful if, like me, you have become so fond of Karin over the years.

East Germany, 1982. Three years have passed since the events of Stasi Winter. Karin Müller and Werner Tilner are in disgrace, demoted and re-housed. Karin might work for the People’s Police but she’s been left in no doubt that it’s the Stasi who are controlling her career and her life. And now they choose to send her and Werner to Dresden where the body of a man has been found encased in concrete. The Stasi are taking a keen interest in the case and Karin becomes increasingly suspicious about why that might be so.

In a parallel story beginning in the 1930s, an English boy Arnold Southwick meets Lotti Rolf in Dresden while on holiday. The two become pen pals as both experience the horrors of war in the bombed cities of Hull and Dresden. Through Lottie’s eyes, we’re taken back to the fire storm that was Dresden in February 1945.

I am a huge fan of this series. Its setting in Communist East Germany is fascinating and brilliantly evoked by David Young, who clearly knows his stuff and puts it across so well. In The Stasi Game, as with others in the series, we’re also reminded of the legacy of World War Two on the DDR. I enjoyed the movement between the two eras and the surprising and engrossing development of the story. The scenes depicting the bombing of Dresden are truly powerful and shocking. With chapters set before, during and after the bombing, Dresden becomes a significant character in the novel in its own right.

The plot of The Stasi Game is fantastic, possibly my favourite of the series, and there are some changes in the relationships between Karin, Werner and with Jäger of the Stasi. I have always enjoyed the character of Jäger, the way that he hovers between good and evil, and he’s particularly good in this one. There is a strong sense that each has reached their limit, that something has to give, and that gives an irresistible tension to the book. We know how strongly Karin believed in the DDR and its values. Karin’s faith is challenged here stronger than ever. She knows now better than anyone what the Stasi are capable of. And we’ve reached the early 80s so time is running out for the regime.

All good things must come to an end but it’s always a shame when they do. I will miss my annual immersion in this world and with these characters but, if this is the end, it ends perfectly, it really does. If you haven’t yet read these books then now is the time.

Other reviews
Stasi Child
Stasi Wolf
A Darker State

Stasi 77
Guest post on the historical background of Stasi 77
Stasi Winter

One by One by Ruth Ware

Harvill Secker | 2020 (12 November) | 384p | Review copy and Bought copy | Buy the book

One by One by Ruth WareA luxury chalet high in the French Alps would seem the perfect place for a get together of business colleagues. Work presentations and meetings can be combined with forays onto the ski slopes, followed by après ski delights, all taken care of by excellent chalet staff. It’s just such a pity that the guests aren’t so much colleagues as bitter rivals prepared to put everything at stake. And then the avalanche hits. The chalet barely survives. It is completely cut off from the outside world, with no power and little food or heat. Murder follows.

I am thoroughly enjoying the avalanche of winter chiller mysteries that are being published during these dark months and One by One is brilliant fun. It is a true homage to classic Agatha Christie – a remote, cut-off location (ideally glamorous), a limited number of suspects (growing ever more limited as the murders increase), the revelation of secrets, puzzles. It’s irresistible and it works perfectly in a chalet cut off by an avalanche, a terrifying event in itself and yet about to be outdone.

This is one of those books that you really don’t want to know much about other than that fantastic premise. I loved how much of the story is given from the perspective of Erin, the chalet girl, who can barely believe the nature of the guests she has to look after. It’s almost as if she has to try and hold them all together. There are clues along the way, which are enjoyable to pick up on. I must admit that I did work it out but that didn’t matter. One by One is such an entertaining pageturner and in my opinion shows Ruth Ware at her best, following the tradition of The Woman in Cabin 10 and The Death of Mrs Westaway. It’s an ideal Christmas read.

Other reviews
The Woman in Cabin 10
The Lying Game
The Death of Mrs Westaway

The Turn of the Key

The Chalet by Catherine Cooper

HarperCollins | 2020 (12 November) | 400p | Review copy | Buy the book

The Chalet by Catherine CooperIn 1998, two brothers, Will and Adam, insist on skiing down a mountain in the French Alps during a blizzard. One isn’t as confident on skis as the other but both are competitive and neither one will back down, despite their guide’s efforts to make them see sense. One reaches the bottom, the other does not.

Twenty years later, Hugo and Ria rent a luxurious chalet in the Alps, looked after by the infinitely patient and organised Millie. They are joined by another couple, Simon and Cass with their small child and nanny. The intention is to tempt Simon to invest in Hugo’s business. But what should be a luxury holiday turns into a misery of unhappy relationships and that’s even before they discover the body of the long-dead brother on the slopes. When they are joined by a bereaved brother, the ski rep Matt and the chalet manager Cameron, that misery turns into a nightmare of secrets, vengeance and murder.

As we descend into Winter there is something hugely enjoyable about chilly, snowy murder mysteries and The Chalet is a fine example. It has that classic Agatha Christie appeal – a murder and a small group of suspects, confined together in an evocative setting, each suspecting the other. Here we have a group of not very likeable people, removed from their usual habitat, their personalities strained by circumstances and by each other, while being waited on hand and foot. Their manners only exist on the surface, the veneer of being civilised on holiday together soon brushes off, all observed by the chalet staff. Catherine Cooper is an excellent observer of behaviour and it’s all extremely entertaining.

The novel moves between the events of the present day and those of 1998, when Will and Adam bring their girlfriends to the resort for a holiday. The past and present mirror each other in many ways but I found the past story much darker and even a little shocking. But from that comes the nightmare of the present.

The Chalet is an excellent puzzler. I didn’t work any of it out and I enjoyed where it took us. And I loved the setting in the Alps! It even made me want to go skiing again (which is quite incredible as when I went skiing years ago my instructor broke her leg – definitely off putting). It’s a very entertaining, exciting and well-written pageturner. I read The Chalet in three greedy gulps – unusual for me in these times. It is undoubtedly a very good read for these long, dark evenings.

The Silver Collar by Antonia Hodgson

Hodder & Stoughton | 2020 (6 August) | 352p | Bought copy | Buy the book | Listen to the audiobook

It is 1728 and all is good at last for Thomas ‘Half-Hanged’ Hawkins, the one time minor aristocrat, and Kitty Sparks, the owner of the rather disreputable The Cocked Pistol bookshop. But they are not to be left in peace. Kitty is forced to give up the bookshop while Thomas is attacked in the street and discovers that there is a price on his head. Neither of them can understand the reason why but it’s not long before they begin to associate events with the arrival in London of the enigmatic, cunning Lady Vanhook, who has returned from Antigua with her favourite slave girl, Affie, by her side, a silver collar clasped around the girl’s neck.

The Silver Collar is the fourth novel in Antonia Hodgson’s wonderful Tom Hawkins series, set in Georgian London and beyond. It’s been a few years now since the last novel and so I was really excited to read this. You don’t need to have read the earlier books. We’re soon reminded of what’s happened before, but I do recommend them. The Silver Collar is my favourite of the four. I love Tom and Kitty. These are witty books and the relationship between the two main characters is so alive and vigorous (in more ways than one), partly due to the author’s sparkling dialogue. Tom and Kitty make me laugh but, in this novel especially, they made me cry, too. I have missed them!

The Silver Collar tells a fantastic story – it’s an intense, action-packed drama and it is driven by sinister and actually pretty terrifying Lady Vanhook. It’s hard for me to remember another fictional villain that I have hated quite as much as this one. But she’s also a scene stealer. Through her we learn much more about our heroine Kitty and so the reader is drawn to her even more.

These books are full of brilliant characters. I love Sam, the young boy from a family of gangsters who has sort of adopted Tom as a surrogate father. His mother, the gang leader, is hysterical (and especially entertaining in the audiobook). But there are new characters in The Silver Collar who leave a long and lasting expression – the young slave girl Affie and her father Jeremiah Patience whose story is utterly horrific. Slavery adds another dimension to the novel, a warning that there was far more to Georgian England than wigs, debauchery and gangs. The role of women in this society is also considered. Kitty, herself, is extremely vulnerable no matter how tough she thinks it is.

Parts of The Silver Collar are upsetting to read, especially, but not only, the sections in which Jeremiah recounts his story. But it is well worth the emotion of reading it and I must say that the ending is fantastic. This is a very good novel indeed, by an author who writes beautifully and with such empathy for her characters and this period, but who is also very witty and always entertaining. It is also a pageturner! I was engrossed in the audiobook, which is read so well by Joseph Kloska. And, as I mentioned earlier, if you haven’t read the earlier books, you really must! The first is The Devil in the Marshalsea (I don’t have a review up for this as I read it as part of judging for an HWA award, for which is was shortlisted).

Other reviews
The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins
A Death at Fountains Abbey

The Mitford Trial by Jessica Fellowes

Sphere | 2020 (5 November) | 360p | Review copy | Buy the book

The Mitford Trial by Jessica FellowesIt is 1933 and, with the rise of Hitler in Germany, fascism is beginning to become fashionable among British high society. Sir Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists is on the ascendancy and his most ardent admirer is Diana Guinness, formerly Diana Mitford, who is not going to let her marriage, or his own dalliances, get in the way of attaching herself to him permanently. Diana’s younger sister, Unity, on the other hand, has a schoolgirl’s obsession with Adolf Hitler.

As if to clear their heads, their despairing mother plans to take her daughters on a luxury cruise to Italy. She needs somebody reliable to keep an eye on them. Louisa Cannon, the Mitfords’ former maid and companion is the obvious choice. Even though she has just married DI Guy Sullivan, Louisa feels she has no choice, especially when a strange man approaches her and suggests it would be in the interests of her country if she should spy on the Mitfords and any Germans that they might have contact with onboard. It all sounds deeply mysterious and intriguing but, when one of the passengers is found dead in his cabin, it also becomes extremely dangerous.

I am a huge fan of this series, of Louisa, of the mysteries that she solves, and of the intrigue, glamour and danger that surrounds the Mitford sisters, all brought to life in these novels. I live very close to where the sisters grew up and have been to events in their home, eaten in their local pub and visited their graves. They are fascinating, not necessarily always in a good way, and they reveal so much about the nature of the times in which they lived – in society but also on its fringes, where scandal can be found. Louisa is a bridge between normality and these unusual women. She is the one who can get to the heart of the matter, with or without the help of her rather bumbling detective friend and now husband, Guy Sullivan.

The Mitford Trial is the fourth in the series and you can certainly read it without having read the others. I read the first novel, The Mitford Murders, not that long ago and, as a result, immediately devoured the following two books. The stories stand alone with each of the books generally focusing on a sister. In The Mitford Trial it’s now the time to learn more about Unity, possibly the most notorious of them all (which is saying something when you consider the story of Diana). And so, if you’ve read them all, you’ll have more of a feel for their relationships and also for that between Louisa and Guy. I must admit, though, that this is possibly of less interest to me. I have still to be convinced that Guy actually knows what he’s doing.

This latest novel is different in that it is mostly set away from London and Oxfordshire. Most of the drama is set aboard the Princess Alice, a ship that carries such a strange bunch of crew and passengers to Italy. There is intrigue of every kind just as there is also the shadow of something sinister – there are spies at work, on every side. And while Diana and Unity see only glamour and excitement in the appearance of Nazis on the ship, many others don’t.

The Mitford Trial is an entertaining tale of glamour, spies and murder. It has that Agatha Christie type feel to it as our murder suspects are few in number and confined within the ship. The historical detail is marvellous and so too is its mood as we enter that dark period of 20th century history. I can’t wait to see where Jessica Fellowes takes us next as Diana and Unity become even more deeply involved with fascism, Germany and with Hitler himself.

Other reviews
The Mitford Murders catch up (The Mitford Murders and Bright Young Dead, now renamed The Mitford Affair)
The Mitford Scandal

Pulpit Rock by Kate Rhodes

Simon & Schuster | 2020 (15 October) | 392p | Review copy | Buy the book

DI Ben Kitto and his team of friends, neighbours and colleagues are swimming around the coastline of the small Scilly Island of St Mary’s, in training for the annual summer Swimathon, when they make a terrible discovery. Hanging from Pulpit Rock is the body of a young woman and she is dressed as a bride. Sabine had left her home in Latvia to spend some months on the island, to improve her English, and now she has been brutally murdered. With his boss on holiday, it’s up to Ben to take charge. He locks down the island, he moves into the hotel where Sabine had worked, and he begins the hunt for the killer that he knows must still be on the island. And then another young woman goes missing.

There are some series that not only entertain and thrill but also comfort and Kate Rhodes’ Ben Kitto series is definitely one of them. I adore these books and always look forward to immersing myself in the beautiful, remote and somehow menacing small world of these islands, guarded by Ben Kitto and his dog Shadow. Although the islands are small, it seems as if all of life can be found on them, which does lead, unfortunately and hopefully fictionally!, to regular murders. And often the killers are islanders. The result is a fabulous series of novels which have the feel of classic crime about them – murder in a confined or remote setting, a limited number of suspects, the fear that anyone might be next and that the person next to you at the town hall meeting to discuss the murders might actually be the killer. But what gives these novels an extra edge is its detective Ben.

Ben is a fantastic character. He has a past in London, but it doesn’t intrude too much. That’s a world he left behind when he returned to the Scilly Islands where he was born. He’s in an odd position. He’s an islander who has known many people on the islands for his whole life but he’s also an outsider, having spent so many years away. His relationships are complicated, made even more so by his job, but they’re fascinating to watch. And I love Shadow, Ben’s dog, who guards the islands every bit as much as Ben.

Pulpit Rock is the fourth book in the series and, just like the others, stands alone very well. Its story is self-contained and such a good one. But I would urge you to read the other three, just so you can fall in love with Ben and Shadow as I have. The cast of characters is fabulous in Pulpit Rock, some we’ve met before and others we haven’t.

I love the way Kate Rhodes writes. This is such an evocative book. The islands play a vital part in the novels, which move between them. Places are beautifully described and there is such a strong sense of history and tradition surrounding them. Likewise the sea and the elements play their role. The communities are dependent on the sea for so much, not least as an escape for the mainland, and sometimes it turns against them. This time, though, we are there in the heat of the summer.

This series can do no wrong in my eyes and Pulpit Rock is completely fabulous.

Other reviews
River of Souls
Ben Kitto series:
Hell Bay
Ruin Beach
Burnt Island

The Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz

Century | 2020 (20 August) | 608p | Review copy and Bought copy | Buy the book

Moonflower Murders by Anthony HorowitzRetired publisher and editor Susan Ryeland runs a small hotel on Crete with her long-term boyfriend Andreas Patakis. It should be the good life but Susan is feeling restless, missing London, her old job, something to test her. The timing is fortuitous, then, when she is approached by Lawrence and Pauline Trehearne, who run their own exclusive hotel, Branlow Hotel, in Suffolk. Their daughter Cecily has disappeared and her parents believe it is connected to a murder that took place eight years before in the hotel on Cecily’s wedding day. Hotel handyman and ex-offender Stefan Codrescu is now in prison for the murder. But just before her disappearance, Cecily had phoned her parents to say that there had been a miscarriage of justice, that she knew the real identity of the murder. Apparently, she had worked it out while reading Atticus Pund Takes the Case, a detective novel written by Alan Conway, the reprehensible and deceased author, known most of all for The Magpie Murders. If anyone can work out what it was that Cecily found in those pages, it is Susan Ryeland, Conway’s publisher.

The Moonflower Murders sees the return of the unusual sleuth Susan Ryeland, whom we first met in The Magpie Murders, which is such an ingenious novel – a novel within a novel and a mystery within a mystery. The recipe is repeated here and to such brilliant effect. Once more Susan must play detective, while feeling that she is completely out of her depth and, actually, in considerable personal danger, trying to second guess Alan Conway, following the clues in his novel while questioning her own set of reluctant witnesses, the family and colleagues of Cecily, all within the claustrophobic confines of Branlow Hotel. It is so clever! Resolution seems far off but it becomes increasingly vital as Cecily remains unfound and Susan begins to understand that she has stirred up a deadly hornets’ nest.

It isn’t necessary to have read The Magpie Murders first but it would help to understand the back history of Susan and Alan and also to appreciate the fabulous creation of Atticus Pund, Conway’s fictional German detective and refugee who solved cases in the UK just after the Second World War. Conway himself, although missing from the novel, is a vital presence, as the author of Atticus Pund Takes the Case and also as one of Susan’s many suspects for the murder in the hotel eight years before.

It’s all deliciously complex and twisty with more red herrings than a fish market. It is an intellectual exercise in many ways and so it’s difficult to become too emotionally involved in events or people but the reader is certainly engaged with it all, appreciating the wit and humour, and the games. To some extent, the reader is also a sleuth – there are plenty of clues to hunt for and it’s a delight to discover them when they’re explained, making a re-read desirable.

When all is said and done, The Moonflower Murders is a thoroughly enjoyable and very well-written classic whodunnit (in the style of Hercule Poirot, to my mind), that might play with the genre but also displays it in full glory with all of the elements you might want. Anthony Horowitz is such an entertaining and clever writer. I can’t wait for more.

Other reviews
Magpie Murders
The Word is Murder
The Sentence is Death