Monday, April 23, 2018

Magpie Murders: a very short review

Magpie Murders is by Anthony Horowitz, who is not well known to me as an author, although apparently his young adult "Alex Rider" series is tremendously popular.

However, as a screenwriter, he wrote the beyond-wonderful Foyle's War, which by itself would be the accomplishment of a lifetime.

(And before that he adapted Caroline Graham's Inspector Graham series into Midsomer Murders! What a resume!)

Magpie Murders is a delightfully-executed showpiece of a murder mystery. Its hook is that it's a book-within-a-book, in which our heroine is the editor at a small independent press which publishes a series of cottage mysteries set in rural 1950's England. She has just received the latest in the series, Magpie Murders, only to discover that it is the last, for the detective Atticus Pund has been diagnosed with a terminal illness.

Only then it turns out that the author of these mysteries is himself rather a mystery; soon there is plot and intrigue both within and without the book, as our heroine tries to figure out what clues the book itself reveals about its author and his circumstances.

Without giving too much away, it turns out that our (fictional) author, who has become quite wealthy by making a career of writing murder mysteries, fancies himself a author of serious talents, and is disappointed that his attempts to write "literature" have been unsuccessful. Perhaps this is actually a book-within-a-book-within-a-book?

Along the way there are twists and turns, there are a delightful cast of characters both within the murder mystery and without, and there are entertaining sequences both in England of the 1950's as well as in England of present times.

And, this being an English murder mystery, there is wordplay, there are artifices, and, of course, there are castles, moats, and a vicar with a squeaky bicycle.

The endings, both of the book, and of the book, are quite cleverly arranged and delivered, and are very satisfying.

It's all truly delightful, even if it does seem rather like something you should be enjoying with your blueberry scones, clotted cream, and a nice pot of Earl Grey.

Recently my thriller diet has been considerably more gritty; mild disputations between the groundskeeper and the assistant at the surgeon's office are a fair bit afield.

Still, Horowitz is an author of tremendous skill, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

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