I’m a big fan of the British author Anthony Horowitz’s mysteries. They’re old-fashioned, in the Agatha Christie vein, but also very clever and also frequently with the self-conscious meta aspect I’m partial to. Like in The Word Is Murder, there’s a character named “Anthony Horowitz” who’s a mystery writer. And a key part of Magpie Murders is a (fictional) mystery novel, the entirety of which is included in the text.
The same thing happens in his most recent book to be released in the U.S., Moonflower Murders. The novel-within-the-novel is called Atticus Pünd Takes the Case, Pünd being the detective main character. Horowitz does a delicate dance with this this text: it has to be good enough to hold our interest, but it’s also meant to be bit hokey — and certainly not as good as his own book that surrounds it.
One particular flaw in the embedded text has to do with a character named Charles Pargeter, who we’re told “had the look of a Harvard professor” and “spoke with an American accent.” He does have a home in Knightsbridge as well as New York. Yet I don’t think that can explain the number of Britishisms Pargeter uses. He says:
“The combination was sent to me by post.” (Americans would say “in the mail.”)
“We were actually at college together.” (Americans do indeed say “college” instead of “university,” but would phrase it as either “in college” or “went to college.”)
“He also got Harris out of bed and asked him if he’d heard anything, but there was no joy there.”
“That horse has bolted, as the saying goes.” (The American version of that British saying is “the horse has left the barn.”)
We’re not told the nationality of Pargeter’s wife, Elaine, but she talks British, too:
“They went upstairs and they also looked round the side of the house, where the window had been broken…. The next morning we had a whole crowd of people from Scotland Yard: forensics, photographers, the lot!”
“Looked round” and “the lot” are Britishisms.
As I say, Atticus Pünd Takes the Case is intentionally not great, but I don’t think the Parmenters’ misplaced language is intentional on Horowitz’s part. I can’t tell you why. In fact, I may have already said too much.