Title: Magpie Murders
Author: Anthony Horrowitz
Publisher: Orion Publishing Group
When editor Susan Ryeland is given the tattered manuscript of Alan Conway’s latest novel, she has little idea it will change her life. She’s worked with the revered crime writer for years and his detective, Atticus Pund, is renowned for solving crimes in the sleepy English villages of the 1950s. As Susan knows only too well, vintage crime sells handsomely. It’s just a shame that it means dealing with an author like Alan Conway…
But Conway’s latest tale of murder at Pye Hall is not quite what it seems. Yes, there are dead bodies and a host of intriguing suspects, but hidden in the pages of the manuscript there lies another story: a tale written between the very words on the page, telling of real-life jealousy, greed, ruthless ambition and murder.
From Sunday Times bestseller Anthony Horowitz comes Magpie Murders, his deliciously dark take on the vintage crime novel, brought bang- up-to-date with a fiendish modern twist.
I’m a big fan of Anthony Horowitz, having read all of the Alex Rider series as I was growing up, so I was looking forward to reading Magpie Murders as what appeared to be a more ‘adult’-orientated Detective novel.
The story has dual narratives in that we start by hearing from Susan, who is the editor of the well-loved Detective stores featuring Atticus Pund. We then read almost the entire manuscript of author Alan Conway’s most recent novel, Magpie Murders, set in the 1950’s. It’s therefore structured in a really interesting way, as a novel within a novel, and after reading the story the author has wrote we then follow Susan in the present day as she tries to work out whether Alan Conway did indeed kill himself or was murdered – and where on earth is the end of his manuscript?
Both stories are interesting and fun to read; Atticus Pund is a charming and interesting character whilst Susan is also really likeable and we learn more about her relationship with Andreas, which is also entertaining. Though at times the switch between the two narratives could feel a little disjointed, as I’d be fully absorbed in the current story and didn’t necessarily feel ready to be pulled back into a different one, I still felt it was wonderfully constructed. I also felt that the characters were so full of life and depth that this could be the latest in a long series, where they’ve been thoroughly developed into well-rounded people, instead of a stand-alone novel.
I really enjoyed reading about the publishing world and the descriptions of characters and places were brilliant. Horowitz really is such a skilled writer – he manages to make both the world within Conway’s novel, Magpie Murders, and the present-day narrative, equally absorbing. It’s a very self-aware book, as Horowitz certainly brings the tropes of classic Detective fiction (which have become so well-known) to life whilst, as the synopsis says, adding a “modern twist”.
It’s quite a long book but you are effectively getting to enjoy two almost-separate stories in one. Both the modern day narrative and the story telling the tale of Atticus Pund’s adventure really do read very well, and I really enjoyed this novel.