ANOTHER murder mystery with a clever concept from one of our most inventive and varied crime-fiction writers.

The hugely enjoyable Moonflower Murders reads like a novel from the golden age of whodunnits but with a modern makeover to avoid cliché, creakiness and too much cosiness.

Correction, make that two novels, because this concoction of infidelity, power-plays and brutal murder offers a story within a story – either of them entertaining on their own, but together verging on brilliant.

The creator of TV' Midsomer Murders first introduced us to the world-famous crime novelist Alan Conway and his 1950s detective Atticus Pund – a sort of German Poirot – in the bestseller Magpie Murders.

Conway AND Angie were, and the text of Angie's first "novel" was contained within a story about a "real-life" murder involving Conway and his editor Susan Ryeland.

The clever concept I referred to was that Angie played games with words, and Pund's novel contained clues that helped real-life – this time I do mean real-life – readers solve the "real-life" murder.

Horowitz repeats the concept in Moonflower Murders, and while there is go surprise value this time round, he does his best to give us something special.

In Atticus Pund Takes The Case, the "fictional" German detective is summoned to a country hotel to investigate a murder.

The "real-life" Susan is summoned to a similar country hotel where one of the sisters who runs it has disappeared, immediately after finding clues in the Pund novel about a "real-life" murder that happened eight years before.

Did the Romanian handyman really kill a guest with a hammer? Was he framed? Was someone else the target? Just how many dark secrets do the staff and guests have?

And what did the novelist Alan Conway find out about the "real-life" murder when he visited the hotel and came up with the idea for his "fictional" murder?

Both plots in Moonflower Murders recall typical plots by Agatha Christie and other giants of the golden age, and as I said before both plots are entertaining.

For most of the novel this is enough to keep us reading, though for a long time it's hard to see how the plots intertwine apart from the characters telling us they do.

But it's worth waiting for the final few chapters: that's when the clues become apparent, in the traditional style of gathering the characters together in one room telling the truth.

And just when you think everything is revealed, in the final few pages come the real twists, the ones you didn't see coming, that make you nod appreciatively and give a great big satisfying "ahhh...".

David Knights