Reviewed by Jean Arboleda
MAGPIE MURDERS By Anthony Horowitz 496 pp. Harper.
In the quiet English town of Saxby-on-Avon, the housekeeper of the local aristocrat dies in a tragic accident. As the members of the local community gather to pay their respects, it becomes clear that everyone has something to hide. Another dead body is found, and renowned private detective Atticus Pünd is brought in to investigate. Are the deaths connected? Is it really an accident? Or is there something more sinister at play?
So begins Magpie Murders, the latest murder mystery set in the 1950s from bestselling author Alan Conway. His editor Susan Ryeland breezes through the manuscript, only to find that the crucial final chapter is missing, and the mystery remains unsolved. The reason for this is soon made clear when Alan is found dead—an apparent suicide. As Susan goes on a quest to find the missing chapter, going deeper into Alan’s private life, she begins to suspect that maybe there’s more to this novel than meets the eye. The Atticus Pünd series catapulted Alan to fame, but he was not well-liked and often difficult to work with. Though Susan is accused of overthinking, there are too many parallels between the unfinished novel and the author’s life to be ignored—a jilted lover, a disgruntled ex-wife, a suspicious sibling. Is it a case of life imitating art, or is it the other way around?
I grew up reading Agatha Christie novels, at a time when everyone else my age was reading Nancy Drew, and I couldn’t have been more excited to get started on this. The novel draws you in as Susan plays the amateur detective, channeling her inner Atticus Pünd to try to solve the real mystery that lies underneath. Anthony Horowitz, who rose to fame with his young adult series Alex Rider, successfully uses the novel-within-a-novel format to add a modern twist to a classic whodunit. Written in large part from Susan’s perspective, it is as much a novel about writers, and writing (and, to some extent, about the publishing industry), as it is an homage to the Golden Age of classic British crime novels—with the sleepy countryside setting, the cast of eccentric characters, and the scattered clues and red herrings. I won’t spoil the ending, but suffice it to say that Horowitz successfully ties up all loose ends and presents the unexpected solution so well that one closes the book with a sigh of satisfaction. Fans of Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, and even J. K. Rowling (writing as Robert Galbraith) will surely enjoy this immensely enjoyable read.
Jean will try anything once. She has, at different points in her life, worked in government, interviewed international celebrities, and been the social media manager for several brands. On any given day, she would rather be reading, preferably surrounded by puppies.
[Thoughts and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Fully Booked. Then again, we love our authors anyway.]