I can’t begin to describe how much I loved Anthony Horowitz’s Magpie Murders. But this is a review, so, well, I will.
Magpie Murders is a mystery within a mystery. It starts with an editor reading Alan Conway’s Magpie Murders, featuring Conway’s detective Atticus Pünd. The reader plunges into Conway’s story, which revolves around a handful of murders and features a large cast of suspects not unlike those found in Agatha Christie’s books. The mystery is absorbing and clever, with well-drawn characters, and I was deep into the story when it abruptly ended. It just cuts off completely just as Pünd reveals the murderer. The reader is then taken back to the editor’s point of view as she tries to locate the end of the book and untangle author Conway’s life.
I tried to read Magpie Murders once before, but wasn’t hooked. I skipped the author’s introduction, a bad habit of mine, and wasn’t that interested a few pages in. This time, I resolved to read the introduction, and realized it was part of the story and set up the mystery within a mystery. It looked exactly like the beginning of any book, with a title page and a list of the author’s previous Atticus Pünd titles. I was very entertained by this beginning and easily slipped into the rest of the book.
Horowitz is a witty and entertaining writer. He manages to memorably describe each character so you don’t get lost as to who is who. The mysteries are well plotted and interesting. The reader gets absorbed in the Pünd mystery, which takes up over half of this lengthy book, so it’s dismaying when the story ends without a resolution. I initially was irritated and didn’t want to switch back to the editor’s story, but very quickly I discovered this part of the book was equally absorbing.
Atticus Pünd is unlike Christie’s Poirot in that he doesn’t dominate the mystery or have too many quirky habits. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Poirot, but it was a nice change of pace to have a more reserved detective. But there are commonalities, for example just as Poirot has ultra-boob Hastings, Pünd has his hapless assistant. It’s obvious that Pünd is meant to be a Poirot-type figure, but without the over-the-top characterization. There are other commonalities that unfold in the book as well.
It’s not easy to pull off the book-within-a-book set up, but Horowitz does it beautifully. This was seriously the most fun mystery I’ve read in a long time. If you are looking for a captivating whodunnit, this is the one.