The Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz, is a superb homage to the cozy mystery genre made famous in the Golden Age of Crime. This story instantly makes one nostalgic for familiar characters like Agatha Christie’s Poirot and Miss Marple.
As far as I’m concerned, you can’t beat a good whodunnit: the twists and turns, the clues and the red herrings and then, finally, the satisfaction of having everything explained to you in a way that makes you kick yourself because you hadn’t seen it from the start. –Horowitz
The plot is structured very cleverly to contain a novel within a novel. While there is potential for error, Horowitz executes with guillotine precision. I am eternally grateful, as these plot devices can be painful if not done well. There is not a stray word, unnecessary dead end, or poorly plotted turn in sight.
Both of the story lines speed along twists and turns with enough creative dissimilarity to Agatha Christie to set this to a class of its own. This work as a whole is very much a Golden Age Mystery “Plus”. It reads like an adaptation of an old and dear theme, but with very uniquely modern additions and style. What is not unique is that all Golden Age Crime novels require the ends to be tied up and all questions answered, leaving the reader utterly content. Horowitz nails it.
One can think of the truth as eine vertiefung – a sort of deep valley which may not be visible from a distance but which will come upon you quite suddenly. There are many ways to arrive there. –Horowitz
The story unfolds with Susan Ryeland as an editor for Cloverleaf Books. She wants to be Editor-in-Chief and plans to spend her weekend reading the manuscript of Alan Conway’s latest Atticus Pudd mystery, entitled ‘Magpie Murders’. Conway is one of the headlining authors of Cloverleaf’s small publishing house. Conway is the reason Cloverleaf survives and thrives. Susan really loves Cloverleaf and works exceedingly hard to ensure the print house’s success and long term sustainability.
The reader is along for the read of this manuscript with Susan. The Pudd story in particular bears a striking resemblance to an Agatha Christie. If you like an Agatha type mystery you will be deeply captivated to this “story in the story“.
As Susan gets to the “the murderer is about to be revealed” part of the manuscript, she makes the discovery that the last chapters of the proof are … simply gone.
Shortly after that, and to make matters worse, Alan Conway is found dead. Suicide. As Conway is the headlining author of Cloverleaf, Susan must finds those missing chapters. Cloverleaf Books’ very survival as a publishing house depends on this detective novel’s success.
In true classic mystery format, Susan gets on her Sherlock hat and through sound sleuthing realizes that ‘Magpie Murders’ the manuscript holds the clue to solve all the mysteries; the Pudd mystery, the Conway death, and the location of the missing chapters.
Highly recommend this story for all the mystery buffs, and anyone looking for a page turner.
It’s available in paperback now, so great news if you haven’t had a chance to check it out.
Plus, here is a little lagniappe: Horowitz discusses this work: https://youtu.be/jG21jQTPYZU