Moonflower Murders, by Anthony Horowitz
Horowitz has written for Poirot and Midsomer Murders, and he created Foyle’s War. He’s a man who loves to tinker with the crime story format; he also knows exactly how publishing works. He already has a series in which a struggling hack writer called Anthony Horowitz plays Watson to the Holmes of a disgraced Scotland Yard detective. Now here’s another way to do it. Eight years ago, a guest at a swish boutique hotel – one Frank Parris – was murdered. The police quickly arrested the culprit, helped by the fact that he made an open and unforced confession, and the guy was sentenced. He is still in jail. Soon after, an obnoxious but highly successful crime writer called Alan Conway visited the hotel, met many of the witnesses to the crime, and used them as thinly disguised characters in his next novel, a Poirot-esque novel set in the 1950s. The actual crime in that novel bears little relation to the murder of Parris – but, the daughter of the hotel owners read Conway’s book, phoned up her parents to say the police had arrested the wrong man (it was “staring her in the face”) and promptly disappeared. Still with me? The police still believe they got the right man and as far as they are concerned, the daughter has just run away. Alan Conway has since died, so her parents in desperation call in the narrator of the story: the woman who was Conway’s editor.
The real genius of Horowitz’s book is that, halfway through, the editor finally accepts she is going to have to reread Conway’s book – and so we get that, all 70,000 words of it, written in a very different style to “her” book. Both Conway’s whodunnit and the one in the “real” world are genius – well, I didn’t see them coming anyway – and though the two stories are linked, they are also sufficiently different to keep the reader interested.
I wish I could do that.