Monday, June 26, 2017

Review: Magpie Murders

Summary: From the New York Times bestselling author of Moriarty and Trigger Mortis, this fiendishly brilliant, riveting thriller weaves a classic whodunit worthy of Agatha Christie into a chilling, ingeniously original modern-day mystery.

When editor Susan Ryeland is given the manuscript of Alan Conway’s latest novel, she has no reason to think it will be much different from any of his others. After working with the bestselling crime writer for years, she’s intimately familiar with his detective, Atticus Pünd, who solves mysteries disturbing sleepy English villages. An homage to queens of classic British crime such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers, Alan’s traditional formula has proved hugely successful. So successful that Susan must continue to put up with his troubling behavior if she wants to keep her job.

Conway’s latest tale has Atticus Pünd investigating a murder at Pye Hall, a local manor house. Yes, there are dead bodies and a host of intriguing suspects, but the more Susan reads, the more she’s convinced that there is another story hidden in the pages of the manuscript: one of real-life jealousy, greed, ruthless ambition, and murder. Masterful, clever, and relentlessly suspenseful, Magpie Murders is a deviously dark take on vintage English crime fiction in which the reader becomes the detective. -- Harper

I can still remember when I first heard the folks at Harper talking about MAGPIE MURDERS by Anthony Horowitz. Suffice it to say, they were very excited about this novel... almost giddy! As a reader who loves mysteries, I would have to say that I was definitely looking forward to reading it too. In fact, despite it being a pretty big (and therefore heavy) book, I packed it for my train trip home from New York. And even though it's never fun to wait at Penn Station for a train (which just happened to be delayed!), at least I had a good book to read.

MAGPIE MURDERS is terrific! I'd normally say it's an extremely complicated murder mystery with lots of potential suspects that will appeal to Agatha Christie fans. However, it's so much more than that. It's actually a mystery within a mystery. Or maybe the best way to say it is, "It's a mystery book within a mystery book!" Regardless, it's like nothing I've ever read... in a very good way!

The novel begins when Susan Ryeland, a book editor for the best-selling Alan Conway's mystery novels, picks up his latest book. She's expecting nothing different than an intriguing mystery with the detective, Atticus Pund, who she's come to know well through the years. Mystery fans love Pund and his ability to figure out complicated murders that occur in small English villages. (Think Agatha Christie or Dorothy Sayers type books.) While Susan isn't exactly personally fond of Conway (he can be a wee bit difficult), she knows that the publishing company is highly dependent on Conway's novels for its survival.

Conway's latest novel has a few surprises for Susan. While the novel appears at first to be in the same veins his other Pund books, this one feels a little different for Susan. There are still lots of dead bodies and potential suspects, but Susan feels as if there are some hidden messages in this novel. And when she finishes the manuscript and realizes that it's missing the last chapter, Susan in on the hunt to figure out exactly what's going on... and get her hands on the missing pages. As she delves into this mystery, she realizes that the characters and places in the novel match up well with with Conway's real life. Is Conway trying to communicate some hidden secrets to his readers about his own mysterious life?

I adored MAGPIE MURDERS and it will probably be one of my favorite mysteries of the year. It was so smart (which you'd expect from Horowitz), and it's also a great mystery (or should I say mysteries?). I definitely got lost in Conway's novel and even forgot that it was part of a larger premise. I had absolutely no clue where the book was going or who was responsible for the murders, so I'd definitely say the book inside the book was a well-crafted mystery.

But the real treat of the novel was the over-arching story about Susan trying to figure out the clues in Conway's MAGPIE MURDERS. I admit she was much more intuitive than I was even realizing that Conway had hidden clues into the novel that related to his real life. After she finished reading the manuscript and began her own investigation, the book really became something special for me. I was continually amazed by how clever the book was. I can't even imagine the planning Horowitz did before he even started writing the novel -- it's that smart!

I love mysteries and that's why I'm so committed to my Mystery Mondays posts. Mystery Mondays is a way that I make sure I review a mystery a week... and share my thoughts with you! Well, MAGPIE MURDERS is definitely a book that I'm recommending to fans of mysteries. It pays homage to the classics like Christie, but it also has a contemporary feel to it through the Susan storyline. So it's got a little something for every mystery fan. But I'm telling you, the concept of this book is incredible. It's actually a novel (minus one chapter) within a novel... and it's nothing short of brilliant!

MAGPIE MURDERS is a clever and one-of-a-kind novels that is a must-read for mystery fans. Highly recommended!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.


bermudaonion said...

I don't read a lot of mysteries these days but always enjoy them when I do. It sounds like I need to make time for this one soon.

holdenj said...

So excited to see this review, I just picked it up at the library!

The Book Sage said...

REALLY excited to read your review. It's our book club book for July!

Beth Hoffman said...

I was on the fence about this one, but after reading your review I'm adding it to my list!