Crime Writer Anthony Horowitz“It’s funny, isn’t it, that we find relaxation and retreat in murder and violence.”

As heard on The Ryan Tubridy Show

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“Covid-friendly reading” is how Ryan Tubridy describes Anthony Horowitz’s latest novel Moonflower Murders. Ryan was speaking to the crime writer on the phone from Greece, where he is currently based; and between them they agreed that murder mysteries can have a weirdly comforting effect for some readers. Horowitz gives his take on the paradox, suggesting that getting lost in a world of crime fiction actually makes some people feel safe:

“I think that is one of the joys of crime fiction. It’s funny, isn’t it, that we find relaxation and retreat in murder and violence. That said, you know, Agatha Christie, all those old villages, where you can go in and join the residents and wonder which one of them is hiding the terrible secret; it does help to draw a shield around you and protect you from reality. ”

Moonflower Murders is a follow-up to Horowitz’s 2016 book Magpie Murders. The novel opens on an idyllic Greek Island, describing the Mamma Mia style set-up enjoyed by retired book editor Susan Ryeland, who has left rainy London to run a small hotel. The ensuing murder mystery gives rise to a “book within a book”, as a crime novel which Susan edited in her previous life is somehow tied to a murder. Horowitz says this gave him the opportunity to share some of the trade secrets of crime writing, as well as telling a great story:

“I never just wanted to write plain, straightforward whodunits, as much as I love that sort of stuff, I wanted to write about writing; the whole process of how a book is produced, and why, for that matter we even enjoy murder mystery. What is it about these stories that appeal to us still?”

Anthony says he loves giving hints throughout his books, as long as they are not too easy to decipher:

“What excites me in a murder mystery is mainly the clues. I love hiding in plain sight the clues. I think it’s the same as a magician who says, when he says ‘pick a card’ you’re not meant to see with his right hand, you know, he’s taking your watch off. That sort of sleight of hand in words which I most enjoy.”

Ryan then declares himself the perfect audience for fiendishly clever writers, as he says he never spots those carefully positioned literary breadcrumbs, and the ending is always a big surprise. Anthony Horowitz admits that when he’s on the other side of the fence, he also misses plenty of clues:

“Well for what it’s worth, I never guess endings!”

As a writer though, it’s important to Anthony that all his hard work makes the novels actually work as mysteries for most readers, even though he does have a soft spot for the few who manage to work it all out before the big reveal:

“When people read my books, it’s the first question I ask is, did you guess it? And part of me says, please don’t say you guessed it, please say you didn’t! But if they say ‘Yes, I did’, well, I say, that was your pleasure and I hope you enjoyed doing that.”

Anthony says he never originally intended to write a sequel to Magpie Murders, but the producers of the planned TV show based on that novel wanted to know if a sequel was possible. Anthony says he spent 18 months on the script, which he said was a tricky job. He won’t say who’s in line to play Susan Ryeland, but he did reveal that a possible collaboration with fellow crime writer Ragnar Jonasson is being considered:

“Ragnar and I have become quite good friends You know one of the nice things about writing crime novels is, crime writers are extremely collegiate. They really are a family.”

The collaboration is slated to happen, if it comes off, early next year, and according to Horowitz, The Ryan Tubridy Show is the first to know:

“You’re hearing it here first, a possible collaboration next year, to do a book that we write sort of, halves of, each. I’m not quite sure how it will work. But I like his work very, very much.”

If you’d like to hear more from Anthony Horowitz about his hidden hints and secret anagrams, how the internet has impacted murder mysteries and the crime writers whose work he can’t get enough of, you can listen back to the full interview with Ryan Tubridy here.

Anthony Horowitz’s book Moonflower Murders is out now, published by Century.

Ruth Kennedy

© The Listener 2020

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