Review of “Magpie Murders” by Anthony Horowitz

Note: This review is by my husband Jim.

In one sense, Magpie Murders is a real bargain in that it is two books in one: a who-done-it about the writing and disposition of another who-done-it.  In fact, the novel within the novel is produced in its entirety, although the reader must wait a fairly long time to read its final chapter.  

The “base” story is about a female editor of a book publishing company whose most popular author has just submitted a new novel, the last chapter of which seems to be missing.  That famous author then apparently commits suicide by jumping off the tower of his country estate.  When our intrepid heroine goes to the estate to try to locate the final chapter of his novel, she encounters suspicious aspects to the “suicide” that leads her to investigate the death.   

Along the way, the reader is treated to the 200+ page novel within the novel — and it is quite good in its own right. Since the main character of the base novel is an editor, she is able to include her observations of what makes a good mystery novel.  Horowitz is a fan of the mystery genre, and he pays homage to several of its most competent and prolific practitioners. The final scene of the novel within the novel is particularly well crafted, with the brilliant detective doing his best Hercule Poirot imitation, tying numerous loose and seemingly unconnected threads together for a satisfying, and surprising, denouement.  

One carp I have about the book is that the author violates one of his cardinal principles of a well-constructed who-done-it.  He has his main character say that the author should not rely on coincidence to resolve the issues set up in the story.  And yet, the heroine probably would never have solved the murder without a serendipitous encounter with a minor character at the very end of the book.  In addition, there is a deus ex machina at the end that is, like any deus ex machina, both coincidental and fairly essential.
Evaluation: Magpie Murders is quite long for its genre.  Nonetheless, it can be forgiven since, after all, it is two novels for the price of one. 

Rating: 3.5/5

Published in the U.S. by HarperColllins, 2017


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6 Responses to Review of “Magpie Murders” by Anthony Horowitz

  1. Mystica Varathapalan says:

    Thank you for the review

  2. Trisha says:

    Have you ever read J.J. Abram’s S.? It’s a book with another story which is sort of about the book written into the margins. I love oddly constructed books. 😀

  3. BermudaOnion says:

    I’ve seen a lot of good reviews for this but it sounds kind of odd to me.

  4. Lloyd Russell says:

    Him, I pretty much agree with your analysis and rating. I liked it well enough. Butdon’tto read any more of his books.

  5. Beth F says:

    I’ve read mixed reviews on this and in the long run, put my copy on the giveaway pile.

  6. Anisa Mcdaniel says:

    I like how you put that this is basically 2 books in one. That’s the key for me because I found myself wanting to read this but was intimidated by the length. It’s next on my list for sure. I am currently reading Jake Warner’s Coming of Age in Berkeley. It’s been very good, kind of odd as it’s a romance written by a man but he did an amazing job with it!

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