Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitze ~ SUE PIAZZA’S BOOK REVIEWS

By: Sue  Piazza – 2-23

Published 2016 in Great Britain
Genre: Mystery, Fiction
Bookmarkers: 3 of 5

Prolific writer Anthony Horowitz created Foyle’s War for PBS; wrote several Midsomer Murder episodes; penned the Hawthorne & Horowitz Series; wrote the bestseller Moriarty and the Alex Rider series (now on Amazon Prime); the international bestseller The House of Silk, James Bond 007 books, and more.

Reviewers have touted this book as a cleverly construed “who done it”. I found this narrative confusing beginning with the “About the Author” section attributed to Alan Conway and not Anthony Horowitz. This book within a book even attributes reviews to Conway. Adding to the unclear delineation between are the two casts of characters, one for the manuscript Alan Conway wrote and a second cast dealing with a different murder investigation.

The plot revolves around Susan Ryeland who, as an employee at Cloverleaf Books publishing house, is the editor of “Magpie Murders” the latest work written by Alan Conwy, who has just died. Mystery #1, did he commit suicide? Mystery #2, what happened to the last chapter(s) of his manuscript?

The storyline Conway’s novel is propelled by the death of Mary Blakiston, a break in and then another death, all which take place at the manor house of Sir Magnus Pye.

Detective Atticus Pund is called in to investigate. Susan Ryeland edits this book. She then investigates the missing chapters and Conway’s untimely death. This manuscript follows Alan’s plotline, Susan investigates Conway’s death. Mr. Pund reveals details into the manor investigation. Mr. Pund dies, his obituary is printed in The Times. The book goes back and forth between Susan and her investigation, the novel’s mysteries she’s editing and the circumstances surrounding Conway’s death. All the back and forth between two different books tends to become confusing.

Mr. Conway’s nine book titles comprise an anagram. Mr. Conway hated his creations and those who read them. He planned to reveal this on television. After insulting his readership his book’s franchise would collapse. The planned BBC TV series based on his works would fall through. But he didn’t care. He was dying. His publishing house, Cloverleaf, would take a severe financial hit. It might even go under. A good motive for his death. Ms. Ryland soon discovers this was not the only motive for his possible murder. Mr. Conway had a habit of including everyone he knew as characters in his work, and most were not described kindly.

A potential issue to some readers is that this book is written in English, not American English. Some of the words do not translate. Example: “… box of frozen fish lying next to the hob …” or “She told me that her brother’s death had knocked her for six.” or “… the bright pink motor scooter that she had bought on the never-never.” It is easier to read this on a Kindle, this way one is able to click on an unfamiliar word and have its meaning come up immediately.

Another difference between English and American is the use of articles. “…left hospital …” The English do not add an article here. American grammar adds the article “the” to become “left the hospital” There are also no periods after Dr as in American English. Maybe this is a constant typo. Unsure.

An interesting habit of Mr. Horowitz is his mentioning other authors and their works as well as writings or its processes that may tangentially have something to do with the novel being read. Example: The importance of names. Originally called Sherrinford.

Holmes the detective’s name was fortunately changed to Sherlock Holmes. Pansy O’Hara to Scarlett, etc. He also refers to elements in other books. Example: “A writer and a character he hated, both heading towards their Reichenbach Falls.” This is a reference to Moriarty and Holmes’ interaction at the falls.

This best-selling author is a master of words. His descriptions are melodious, fluid, and visually compelling. “He lives in the stately pile where he was brought squealing and mewling into the world, a damp, unlovely ball of poisonous mauve tearing open the curtain of his mother’s vagina with the same violence with which he will rampage through the rest of his life.” And again with “Her physique was against her too: not fat, not masculine, not dumpy, but perilously close to all three.” Then there was this section where Detective Inspector Chubb speaks of knowing his wifie’s mood when he returns home. “… she communicated it by the speed of her knitting needles.”

I did enjoy this book once I listened to the audio tape and reread the book though I found that with this author’s vast collection there are other of his works that I would recommend before this one. Almost any other of his novels are easier to read and more fulfilling than this one though if you can keep the characters and books straight you might enjoy this interesting format. Next month I will review one of his other novels, one I find immensely more enjoyable and easier to follow.

Recommend. Sort of.

Susan Piazza, a Navy veteran, is an author, columnist, and blogger. Book One in her historical Ongoing Indigenous Tale series “A Bird Call That Isn’t,” can be found on Amazon at:

A Bird Call That Isn’t: An Ongoing Indigenous Tale ◊