In the tradition of the theatrical play-within-a-play, Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz is a detective-mystery-within-a-detective-mystery. First in the Susan Ryeland series, more of her later, Horowitz has written a page-turner laced intricately with clues, delivered by a fictional detective in the Poirot tradition.
Susan Ryeland is head of fiction at Cloverleaf Books whose star writer is Alan Conway, author of the hugely successful Atticus Pünd crime series. Reading the manuscript of his latest submission, Magpie Murders, Susan is surprised to find the last chapters are missing. The murderer remains unnamed. Worse, Alan Conway has committed suicide. If Ryeland and her boss Charles Clover don’t find the missing chapters they can’t publish the book. And with no future books to come from Conway, the company may go bust.
The first half of the book is dedicated to Conway’s story of his fictional private detective, Pünd, who investigates one accidental death and one murder which take place in the same West Country village within days of each other. The victims knew each other. There must be a connection. In classic Agatha Christie style, the possibilities, lies and secrets are discovered by Pünd but he keeps his conclusions to himself.
The second half of the book tells how Ryeland first sets out to find the missing part of the manuscript. But increasingly puzzled by inconsistencies and lies in those surrounding Conway, she begins to suspect his death was not suicide. And that the answer lies in the manuscript of Magpie Murders. Did Conway fear for his life, and did he leave clues behind for his killer to be brought to justice.
This is such a clever beginning to what is a new detective series from Horowitz, who has written extensively for television including Midsomer Murders and Poirot. All the tropes of the classic detective novel are here – family arguments, a crook going straight, injustice, jealousy and rivalry, mixed up with the tensions of a local community where everyone knows everyone else’s secrets… or do they? Why is the vicar so hesitant when answering Pünd’s questions? Why did a son tell his mother he wished she were dead? Who stole a dangerous drug from the GP’s surgery and what did they do with it?
I’ve read some good books recently but none that kept me reading into the dark of the night until my eyes drooped. Oh, and I guessed wrong the wrong murderer.
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MAGPIE MURDERS by @AnthonyHorowitz #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-5bC via @SandraDanby