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October 30, 2020

Magpie Murders

 


Mystery
2018 Harper Perennial (first published in 2016)
Finished on October 28, 2020
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

From the New York Times bestselling author of Moriarty and Trigger Mortis, this fiendishly brilliant, riveting thriller weaves a classic whodunit worthy of Agatha Christie into a chilling, ingeniously original modern-day mystery.

When editor Susan Ryeland is given the manuscript of Alan Conway’s latest novel, she has no reason to think it will be much different from any of his others. After working with the bestselling crime writer for years, she’s intimately familiar with his detective, Atticus Pünd, who solves mysteries disturbing sleepy English villages. An homage to queens of classic British crime such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers, Alan’s traditional formula has proved hugely successful. So successful that Susan must continue to put up with his troubling behavior if she wants to keep her job.

Conway’s latest tale has Atticus Pünd investigating a murder at Pye Hall, a local manor house. Yes, there are dead bodies and a host of intriguing suspects, but the more Susan reads, the more she’s convinced that there is another story hidden in the pages of the manuscript: one of real-life jealousy, greed, ruthless ambition, and murder. 

Masterful, clever, and relentlessly suspenseful, Magpie Murders is a deviously dark take on vintage English crime fiction in which the reader becomes the detective.

Magpie Murders has been lurking on one of my bookshelves for a couple of years and I decided to add it to my stack of books for this year's RIP challenge. It wound up taking me over two weeks to finish, partly because it took me a long time to get fully invested in the mystery and partly because we were camping, and I'm usually too distracted to settle down to read while traveling. As it turned out, we had gorgeous weather at our campground and I spend a good chunk of one day reading in the warmth of the sun. A mystery like Magpie Murders requires one to read continuously rather than in fits & starts. There are not only numerous characters, but a mystery within a mystery. Plotlines overlaps and similar names for characters and locations make for a very complex, if not convoluted, tale. I considered giving up, but hated to quit after spending so much time on one book. I'm glad I stuck with it, as the pace picked up and the denouement had me so enthralled, I didn't stop reading until I'd finished the book. 

I was torn between a 3- and 4-star rating, but settled on the higher of the two since the conclusion was so strong. And, I enjoyed it so well, that I plan to read Horowitz's upcoming release, Moonflower Murders. I'm also excited to see that PBS plans a six-part series based on Magpie Murders.
The television adaptation is scripted by Horowitz, who is known to Masterpiece fans for the popular World War II mystery Foyle’s War

Masterpiece executive producer Susanne Simpson said, “Anthony Horowitz is a master mystery writer, and Magpie Murders is a beautiful and complex work. Our Masterpiece audience will truly enjoy this intriguing story of a mystery within a mystery.” Masterpiece is presented on PBS by WGBH Boston.

Anthony Horowitz said, “Magpie Murders is my most successful novel and it wasn’t easy to adapt. But I think the result is a completely original drama that will delight and beguile audiences in equal measure.” (PBS.org)

Magpie Murders is a clever read. There are actually more than two mysteries, none of which I solved before they were revealed, and there are nods to familiar works within the genre, which I found very entertaining. I do have one quibble, though: If you're a reader who pays close attention to the page count, this book will drive you crazy. The page numbers change depending on whether you're reading Alan Conway's manuscript or Horowitz's novel. No wonder the book felt especially long!

I read Magpie Murders for the RIP XV Challenge.





12 comments:

  1. Les, I'm glad you ended up liking this one. I read it back in 2017 (or rather I listened to it) and then the mystery group did it later. It was a favorite of the group. Maybe it was easier listening to it - two narrators - one male, one female. Glad to hear that it will be adapted for TV. I'm betting it will be really good because Horowitz is doing the adaptation and he's well experienced with TV stuff. Can't wait for the new book and I've been thinking of listening to this one again.

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    1. Kay, the more I look back on this book, the more I like it. It's one I could easily read again now that I know the structure and can see where Horowitz was leading the reader. I agree with you that it will make for a good TV program. I loved Foyle's War and am happy that Horowitz is involved in this adaptation.

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  2. I’ve not read any of his books, I think this sounds good despite the slow start. Hope you are enjoying your RV time!

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    1. Heather, this is one of those books that will linger in my memory for a long time. It really is very good and I'm sure it would have gone more quickly had we been home. We watch dvds (this time, Game of Thrones, Season 7) while camping, so my bedtime reading is pretty much nonexistent. Give it a try! I think you may enjoy it. And, thanks. We have had a wonderful, restful week plus at our campground. It's been nice to get out in nature and not obsess about the election!

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  3. I still have not read this one and have recently been going back and forth on whether or not to give it a try. I didn't care for Moonflower Murders, the most recent book by Horowitz, but prior to reading it, I had wanted to read Magpie Murders. Dilemma. :)

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    1. Jenclair, I think you might enjoy it. I found I was getting a little impatient with the first part (the manuscript), but enjoyed the editor's sleuthing skills in the second part. Now I need to decide if I want to read Moonflower Murders.

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    2. Give it a try!  My opinion was not that of the majority. :)

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    3. Will do, but first I want to read The Word is Murder. Have you read that one?

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  4. Yeah the page numbers would drive me a bit crazy. But I do like plots within plots. I'll look for it coming on PBS. I still need to talk my husband into Game of Thrones ... not sure if it's the fantasy aspect or the violence or the combo ... he doesn't want but shouldn't we see it?

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    1. Susan, I think you'll enjoy this, whether you read it or watch the PBS series. As far as GoT, I wouldn't worry too much about the fantasy aspect. Yes, there are dragons, but it's not as if they talk. :) There is violence, but I guess I kindof got used to it. If you've seen Deadwood, you (or rather, your husband) probably won't have problems watching GoT. It's really very, very good. Maybe try the first season and decide after that.

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  5. This sounds interesting but the page count would drive me crazy! Although now that I think about it, I almost always read on my Kindle and I keep my "page count" set to display the time remaining in the chapter instead. I probably wouldn't even notice.

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    1. Jen, I was thinking that an e-reader might be the way to go, especially if you keep track of the percentage read, rather than page count!

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