If you like alternate fiction and have an affection for Anthony Horowitz and, let’s face it, he can do no wrong. (although I’m not a fan of TV’s ‘New Blood’, there I’ve got that off my chest) then this enigma wrapped in a curate’s egg, ‘Magpie Murders’ is for you. Horowitz has such form, we would read a bus ticket if he wrote it, but he’s not one to sit on his laurels and this takes him in a sort of new and exciting direction. He’s one of the original writers of ITV’s ‘Midsomer Murders’, so this mystery stuff is his bread and butter. This time he’s added jam. ‘Magpie Murders’ is a good old-fashioned murder mystery. Think Marjorie Allingham or Agatha Christie and this is the staple of a good afternoon’s reading.
An unexplained death of a housekeeper and local busybody is closely followed by a brutal murder. Are the two connected and can the good detective, Atticus Pund, find that connection? He has his own problems. Although solving many crimes since he came to the country after the war, the German detective has reached a point in his life where his crime-solving days are numbered. He must tie up the clues and he’s on a severely restricted time-table.
But wait, this story is part of a manuscript given to editor Susan Ryeland to read over the weekend prior to its publication. She has a particular distain for its author, the arrogant Alan Conway, but does enjoy his murder mysteries. Finding it lacks its final chapters, she is intrigued and news of his death leads her into the investigating territory of Pund himself. Can she fill his shoes and become the one who solves the mystery of the missing manuscript?
Beware this book will change your life is the opening statement. I think that might be overstating it just a little but, if you like deconstruction of the text, there is enough to fill a text book here. I love the idea that the book within the book is part of the mystery, though, and, of course, such is the power of the novel within ‘Magpie Murders’ is that is creates intense frustration that we break off from that to solve the outside mystery. This kind of book cannot be done often but this really shows off the power of the written word. There are in-jokes, cameo appearances and the final showdown is excellent. Horowitz plays with us and it really is delightful. You will never read a murder mystery again without looking for what lies beneath.
(pub: Orion. 464 page hardback. Price: £18.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-40915-836-3)
check out website: www.orionbooks.co.uk