I’ve always loved a good whodunit mystery regardless of the format. I have been mildly obsessed with them for some time now. I enjoy attempting to discover who committed each heinous crime. I also love being right. I hardly ever am completely right though with a well thought out whodunit and that makes me happier than being correct. I think that’s the sign of a good whodunit book. You are only partly right. You figure out one piece of the puzzle just to be blown away by another piece of the puzzle. And even then you are left wondering, ‘Well that seems so obvious now that I’m being told! Why didn’t I figure that out?!’ Anthony Horowitz’s Magpie Murders accomplishes such a feat.
Let me start by saying that there are two mysteries contained within this novel. Magpie Murders starts out by introducing us to Alan Conway’s editor, Susan Ryeland. Alan has turned in his last manuscript for his popular British crime series about detective Atticus Pünd. Readers are told not to read ahead. We are warned that our lives will be ruined as much as Susan’s life was by reading this manuscript. Yet upon reading that it is impossible not to continue reading. This opening is the equivalent of our parents telling us not to do something, or watch something. We of course do so anyway and learn from the mistake. In this case though, reading the Magpie Murders is far from a mistake. We are introduced to Atticus Pünd for the duration of the last manuscript and then brought back to Susan. In a way we take a quick trip down the rabbit hole and are brought back into reality.
As we are brought back into reality, we soon discover that Susan feels she had read more than just Mr. Conway’s last novel. She feels there are hidden messages riddled throughout the novel that unveils a real life mystery. One that mirrors the same whodunit qualities that Alan Conway has been known for throughout the years. This is also something Susan cannot let go of ultimately and for good reason. That reason is revealed once we arrived back from Wonderland and begin to take our trip now with Susan Ryeland instead of Atticus Pünd. This little tidbit is worth the reveal by the way. In fact, the reveal make it even more prudent that we continue down this road with Susan.
For this reason, I absolutely loved the concept. Coupled with the fact we now have two mysteries to solve instead of one makes this one of my favorite whodunit novels I have ever read. By the end there are so many little tidbits one yearns to discover. This is the part I will warn of spoilers for those reading who have not yet to read the novel. For instance, Alan Conway creates an entire anagram for his book series. That tidbit I will make you read for, but we also discover that Mr. Conway has many other aspects of his series to reveal about his beloved series too. Readers learn what the detective’s name truly means, plus the fact that all the characters in the book are named after birds. And in Conway’s other works he names the characters are similarly connected, such as famous authors names in one instance. In a way he is quite the plagiarist, quite literally and figuratively. Which again will make more sense once you read this book.
I must also admit that I did not figure out who committed the murder within Conway’s version of the Magpie Murders. The part where Susan was attempting to discover if there was a crime committed and if so what, I did manage to piece together somehow. I think between the Atticus Pünd mystery and the actual mystery of Alan Conway, the puzzle pieces fit together quite nicely. This didn’t make the reveal I pieced together any less satisfying to read. However, upon that reveal the situation becomes tense rather quickly. The other mystery though? It blew me away. I was lying on my bed, much like a teenager really, with my mouth slightly open and flabbergasted.
If you love a good mystery story then you should definitely read this one. It does not disappoint. Just don’t go in thinking it’s 236 pages, which is how most people have it labeled. I think it is labeled this way because one book within the book is in fact 236 pages, but the other is not. It’s complicated, like the content, but rather glorious, which truly describes Magpie Murders in a nutshell.