First of all, I’ve got to give credit to my dearest Angry Dimples. We live on opposite sides of the planet and she has been the most constant human presence in my life these past 5 or 6 years. When she asked if I would be interested in reading Anthony Horowitz’ Magpie Murders, I remembered my training and said yes.
Magpie Murders is a mystery novel within a mystery novel. Susan Ryeland is an editor at a small publishing house in London. She is the editor for their most successful author, Alan Conway. Alan writes a series of popular murder mystery novels in the vein of Agatha Christie, with a German immigrant detective named Atticus Pünd. Alan Conway is a difficult man, and not well liked.
When we get to the point where the detective has solved the mystery, Susan finds that the book is missing the final chapters and the author has committed suicide. As Susan searches for the missing chapters she becomes convinced that Alan was murdered, and seeks to find the murderer.
As she becomes a detective, Susan is both the stand in for the reader and for Anthony Horowitz. Susan is a lover of murder mysteries in books and on television. She muses on our collective love for murder.
“It’s strange when you think about it. There are hundreds and hundreds of murders in books and television. It would be hard for narrative fiction to survive without them. And yet there are almost none in real life, unless you happen to live in the wrong area. 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?”
“I’ve watched every episode of Poirot and Midsomer Murders on TV. I never guess the ending and I can’t wait for the moment when the detective gathers all the suspects in the room and, like a magician conjuring silk scarves out of the air, makes the whole thing make sense.”
Magpie Murders is as much about the mysteries of who killed who as it is about the relationship between the author and his (in this particular case) work. Horowitz, if you don’t already know, wrote for both Midsomer Murders and the more respectable Foyle’s War. He also wrote two official Sherlock Holmes books, as well as creating his own popular spy kid series. Horowitz layers in his own love for the mystery genre as well as empathy for the writers – the writers trapped by their own success and the writers who will never have success.