Number of pages: 452
This novel features a book-within-a-book, presented as a novel written by the fictional Alan Conway, and opening with a prologue by his fictional publisher, Sue Ryeland. Conway is even given his own fictional backstory in the "About the Author" section.
The story itself is a murder mystery, supposedly the ninth and last in a series set in the 1950s about a detective called Atticus Pünd, who is said quite early on in the book to be dying. Conway's story opens with a maid falling down a flight of stairs to her death in suspicious circumstances. However, Atticus declines to investigate at first as there is no evidence that this was a murder, finally taking an interest when the maid's employer is beheaded.
As with all murder mystery novels, there is a long list of suspects, all with good motives for murder, although as the story approaches its climax, things get really interesting.
Suddenly there is a break from Alan Conway's story, as the novel suddenly focuses on Sue Ryeland, who has been proof reading the story. Most of this book's second half is told in first person narrative from Sue's point of view, as she addresses a mystery of her own, and notices several surprising parallels with the events of Alan Conway's new book, as well as noticing hidden messages that weren't immediately obvious.
I personally thought this book was a novel idea, as both Alan Conway's story and the events that happen to Sue Ryeland make for compelling reading. The book-within-a-book could have been just a standard murder mystery, but the writing style made me want to keep reading more, and I found it to be a very easy book to get into, like other novels I've read by Anthony Horowitz, and I found myself very keen to find out who the murderer was in the Atticus Pünd story, and to find out the answer to the mystery that Sue ends up having to solve. I also liked the fact that Sue's narrative gave a large amount of background to the fictional author.
I ended up finding Atticus Pünd to be such a compelling character that I'd love it if Anthony Horowitz were to write the previous eight titles mentioned in this book under the pseudonym of Alan Conway; it seems like too good an opportunity to pass up, although considering what I ended up learning about the origin of the character's name (it's rude), I'm not certain this would definitely happen.
I have enjoyed the previous Anthony Horowitz novels that I read, and I loved this too; I loved the way that he tried a completely experimental format, and succeeded.
Next book: We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea (Arthur Ransome)