Anthony Horowitz’s Magpie Murders is a twisting and enchanting thriller that avid whodunnit fans will devour with relish but, like any good whodunnit, there is so much more to this bewitching crime novel than meets the eye.
The novel’s main narrative follows Susan Ryeland, a book editor in her mid-forties who, chiming with the intended readership of the book, is a huge fan of the whodunnit genre. Susan finds herself confounded by the death of her star-author, Alan Conway. However before we are even introduced to Alan we delve into the actual manuscript of his latest, and indeed last, novel called ‘Magpie Murders’. The manuscript is the ninth book in Conway’s bestselling crime series ‘Atticus Pund’, a fictional ‘Sherlock Holmes’ type private detective. Set in the 1950’s in post-war Britain, the novel is a convincing whodunnit in it’s own right with all the guilty-pleasure cliche’s you would expect from a detective novel (think Midsomer Murders or Murder She Wrote). However upon finishing the manuscript, both we as the reader and Susan will delve into the mystery around the author’s death – with clues ingeniously hidden between the very words of the manuscript.
“I’m not sure it matters what we read. Our lives continue along the straight lines that have been set out for us. Fiction merely allows us a glimpse of the alternative”
This remarkable ‘novel within a novel’ is not only a smart thriller, with all the expected red-herrings, shady suspects, ingenious clues and gasp-worthy twists, but is a clever parody of itself and the whodunnit genre as a whole. Horowitz smartly pokes at the publishing industry, as well as taking jabs at crime writers (including himself) and the blood-thirsty audience who can’t seem to get enough of the elaborate murders depicted in books such as this one. The tone is well-pitched and is good-heartedly satirical, oftentimes drawing back the curtain on the inner workings of both the publishing industry and the crime writers’ twisted mind.
The satire of Magpie Murders is never over-laboured, nor does it intrude on the faultlessly thrilling narrative. The poking-fun at publishers, writers and the reader alike makes the novel feel like an intimate one, a joke shared between fans and Horowitz. Magpie Murders is almost a witty love letter to fans of the classic whodunnit, and will certainly leave fellow bibliophiles falling in love.
Overall rating: 8.9/ 10