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Review – “Magpie Murders” By Anthony Horowitz

Books as gifts are my favorite thing. I got this book as a gift from my brother a couple of years ago and it wasn’t until now that I managed to pick it up, more so because I wasn’t particularly into murder mysteries until recently than the lack of time. Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz is a whodunnit murder mystery and unlike anything that I’ve read. For starters, you get two mysteries for the cost of one. LOL. It is a novel within a novel and follows the protagonist as she tries to solve both.

One for Sorrow
Two for Joy
Three for a Girl
Four for a Boy
Five for Silver
Six for Gold
Seven for a Secret, never to be told

Susan Ryeland is the editor of the crime novelist Alan Conway who writes Agatha Christie-style stories.  As she reads his new manuscript of a whodunnit set in the sleepy town of Saxby-on-Avon in England featuring the German detective Atticus Pund, she finds herself plowing through the lives of the residents of the town after the sudden death of the unlikable Mary Blakiston. She could have finished it over the weekend, only if she was able to locate the last chapter, just before the big reveal. The new week finds her at looking at another whodunnit, because she believes it so, this time in reality and unless she solves the latter, she wouldn’t get the answer to the former. So as Susan attempts to solve a case that only she feels needs solving and finds herself in mortal danger.

“Why is it that we have such a need for murder mystery, and what is it that attracts us – the crime or the solution? Do we have some primal need of bloodshed because our own lives are so safe, so comfortable?”

Written in the third person, Magpie Murders is easy to read once you get the hang of the plot. This was my second attempt at reading the novel, the first one being abandoned after a few pages because I wasn’t getting it at all. In this attempt too, I had to go back and read the synopsis from the internet to make sense of what happened to the language switch in the first few pages. From there on, it was the beginning of a journey with one leg in the past and another in the present. The past featured a rip-off of Agatha Christie-style whodunnit complete with a foreign detective, a silly side-kick, and a group of suspects set in a quaint English town. Although slow, I found it much better than the next part, the real story which has its own whodunnit, and also which felt more like an afterword on whodunnits in general. The characters, I felt, could have done better with improvement, there were none that stuck out to me particularly. A few were practically unnecessary. The reel novelist Alan Conway looms over the entire length of the story despite not being physically present and his character is built up mostly by the people around him. Like every other mystery, he was a mystery too.
While I liked the book overall, it has enough thrill to keep the reader going, I was disappointed when I reached the end. I can’t pinpoint a particular aspect but there was this whole aura of the book which was built and then, poof! It was dull for me and had some loopholes which I kept picking out hoping they would be sealed by the climax but they weren’t even mentioned again. Both the stories had something or the other that kept nagging me till the end and beyond. For example, the age of a person is mentioned twice and they are different, the characters are introduced but have nothing to add to the story whatsoever, the misleading pieces of information (which I can ignore because I understand the investigation is being made by an amateur), and finally, the most problematic of all was the protagonist’s behavior at the end. I had expected some sensibility from her, being an editor, and knowing how murder mysteries work, her attitude towards the real-life case wasn’t as polished as expected. I wouldn’t recommend this to someone unless they are looking for something different and don’t mind a little flawed plotline to keep the thrill and suspense alive. There are definitely better books out there. 

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