"Magpie Murders," | Reviewed by Bill Schwab
This suspenseful work of fiction begins with a funeral witnessed by seven
magpies. One of the mourners eyes the birds overhead and recalls the nursery rhyme “Seven for a secret, Never to be told.” Thereafter several human secrets begin to unfold.
Those who are familiar with PBS’s “Masterpiece Mystery” series may recognize some of the character/plot and stylistic elements from “Midsomer Murders” and “Foyle's War,” both of which were created and written by this prolific author.
This Horowitz thriller contains a double puzzle, a story within a story. Originally Alan Conway had contracted with Cloverleaf Publishing House to write nine mysteries with detective Atticus Pünd as the protagonist; “Magpie Murders” is the ninth.
Cloverleaf editor Susan Ryeland decides to take the manuscript home and read the detective story over the weekend. Readers follow the manuscript along with Susan until page 213 where the copy suddenly ends. Much to her surprise, the final pages of the mystery are missing. The question becomes whodunnit?
Did Conway turn in an unfinished manuscript on purpose? Susan feels that is out of character for the compulsive author. Before she has an opportunity to confront him at work, she learns he has committed suicide. Baffled by the missing pages and the successful author’s sudden death, she begins to investigate both. As Susan’s amateurish detective work proceeds, the fictional author’s secrets start to slowly be revealed.
Those who enjoy British whodunits in the classic mystery tradition of Agatha Christie will admire Susan's innate detective skills and the way they lead her to solve both mysteries. Horowitz's double story is brainy, complex, and playful.
NPR, Amazon, “Esquire,” and “The Washington Post” named “Magpie Murders” the best book of the year.