What I thought:
I bloody love a whodunnit. Let me just get that out there. What if I was to tell you that Magpie Murders has two whodunnits? In the words of my teenage niece, ikr.
Susan Ryeland is an Editor at a small publishing house. As she settles down one night to read the brand new manuscript of their most famous client, Alan Conway, author of the famous Atticus Pünd series, all is not what it seems. As the bodies mount up in Pünd’s latest adventure, Magpie Murders, real-life seems to have started imitating art and Susan finds herself doing a bit of sleuthing of her own.
I admit I wasn’t sure what I thought about having two mysteries on the go at the same time (one fictitious and one “real-life”) as I considered I might get too heavily invested in one plot at the expense of the other. Not so. The manuscript that Susan reads is the mystery we start with (a book within a book): Atticus Pünd investigating a double murder in the sleepy village of Saxby-on-Avon in 1955. A full-length story and an obvious homage to Agatha Christie and her most famous creation Hercule Poirot, Atticus Pünd is a German PI who pokes around in the business of a full cast of potential suspects, all of whom have motive for murder and all who seem to have something to hide. There are clues and red herrings and misdirections and all the other fabulous components that make up a golden age mystery. Unfortunately, just as Susan and the reader arrive at the same point – the imminent announcement of the killer – the story stops abruptly. The last few chapters are missing.
It’s difficult to review the book without giving too much away, but let’s just say that as Susan starts to search for clues as to the location of the missing chapters and also to another potential murder much closer to home, she finds some remarkable parallels between the fictional world of Atticus Pünd and that of its creator, Alan Conway.
Being a massive Christie fan, this pleased me in itself and I could honestly quite happily read the entire series if Anthony Horowitz ever decides to bring them to life. I also loved the many nods to and references to various mystery writers – a treat for any crime fiction fan. I really hope, after reading this, that Horowitz also likes Poirot, Marple et al and didn’t just make Alan Conway in to an extension of himself (you’ll have to read it to find out what I mean). Please tell me it’s not so!
I love modern day crime fiction but reading Magpie Murders was like pulling on a cosy pair of slippers, lighting the fire and settling down with a mug of cocoa: going back to an age without mobiles, emails. DNA, forensics. Just good old-fashioned detective work. Highly recommended.
Have you read this? What did you think?