Susan Ryeland, the book editor who retired to Crete after solving the mind-boggling mysteries of Magpie Murders (2017), is enticed to England to try her hand at another Chinese box of a case.
Eight years ago, the wedding weekend of Cecily Treherne and Aiden MacNeil at Branlow Hall, the high-end Suffolk hotel the bride’s parents owned, was ruined by the murder of Frank Parris, a hotel guest and advertising man who just happened to be passing through. Romanian-born maintenance man Stefan Codrescu was promptly convicted of the crime and has been in prison ever since. But Cecily’s recent disappearance shortly after having told her parents she’d become certain Stefan was innocent drives Lawrence and Pauline Treherne to find Susan in Crete, where they offer her 10,000 pounds to solve the mystery again and better. Susan’s the perfect candidate because she worked closely with late author Alan Conway, whose third novel, Atticus Pünd Takes the Case, contained the unspecified evidence that convinced Cecily that Detective Superintendent Richard Locke, now DCS Locke, had made a mistake. Checking into Branlow Hall and interviewing Cecily’s hostile sister, Lisa, and several hotel staffers who were on the scene eight years ago tells Susan all too little. So she turns to Atticus Pünd Takes the Case, whose unabridged reproduction occupies the middle third of Horowitz’s novel, and finds that it offers all too much in the way of possible clues, red herrings, analogies, anagrams, and easter eggs. The novel within a novel is so extensive and absorbing on its own, in fact, that all but the brainiest armchair detectives are likely to find it a serious distraction from the mystery to which it’s supposed to offer the key.
The most over-the-top of Horowitz’s frantically overplotted whodunits to date—and that’s no mean feat.
Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020
Page Count: 608
Review Posted Online: Sept. 8, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020