If you thought Horowitz’s Magpie Murders (2017) was circuitously plotted, wait till you see the puzzles offered in this closely connected sequel. We return here to the company of Susan Ryeland, the London book editor who solved the slaying of one of her authors, Alan Conway, in the previous mystery. Now living in Crete, where she runs an ill-starred inn with her boyfriend, Ryeland is hungry for a change. So when the elderly owners of Branlow Hall, an upscale hotel in Suffolk, ask her to return to England and—for £10,000—help find their missing daughter, Cecily, she can hardly pack fast enough. Cecily vanished shortly after telling her parents that one of Conway’s whodunits, Atticus Pünd Takes the Case, contains a clue proving the innocence of the Romanian maintenance man convicted of bludgeoning a Branlow guest, Frank Parris, eight years earlier, on the day of Cecily’s wedding. Conway had, in fact, visited Branlow after Parris’ murder, and found there the inspiration for Atticus Pünd Takes the Case.
Although Ryeland’s on-site probing leads nowhere, her familiarity with Conway’s fondness for anagrams and for hiding revealing messages in his text will prove crucial as she compares Conway’s fiction with the circumstances surrounding Parris’ demise, struggling to discover the evidence only Cecily saw. Horowitz’s flawed but congenial protagonist, his use of the story-within-a-story trope, and his fair-play blend of red herrings and tip-offs rank this story among Horowitz’s best.
—Jeff, Madison Books, Seattle, WA