Saturday, July 1, 2017

Anthony Horowitz Channels Agatha Christie in Magpie Murders

Product Details
Atticus Pund is an investigator, a likable version of Hercule Poirot, with less ego and more sensitivity. But Atticus has just been given some bad news about his health, and rather than dwell on it obsessively, he prefers to be in the middle of a mystery, a puzzle that needs solving. Unfortunately, when the lovely young woman from Bath arrives at Pund's London office seeking advice on her boyfriend's behalf, Pund just doesn't believe that he can help.

It seems, Joy Sanderling tells Pund, that Robert Blakiston's mother Mary died in a freak accident at Pye Hall, the Somerset mansion where she worked as a cleaning woman. Just because he was overheard arguing with his mother the day before her death (small English towns being what they are), some of the denizens of Saxby-on-Avon are looking at Robert with some trepidation. Joy loves Robert and hopes Pund will help clear his name. Pund puts Joy back on the train with little encouragement.

But the following morning Pund opens his London Times to read that Sir Magnus Pye, Baronet of that very same Pye Hall, has been brutally murdered, beheaded with a sword from his own collection. Pund's eyebrows arch significantly. He summons his trusty assistant James Fraser to pack a bag and bring the car around. Now he has a reason to visit Ms. Sanderling's village and better still, a reason to live a bit longer.

Now for the fun! This novel, "Magpie Murders," is touted as the ninth in the Atticus Pund series written by fictional author Alan Conway, a man so obnoxious and difficult that even his very successful editor at Cloverleaf Books, Susan Ryeland, refuses to deal with him face to face. "Magpie Murders," you see, is a 213 page novel nestled within a larger novel. The reader hunkers down with Susan on her unmade bed as she spends the gray, rainy weekend scarfing down salty treats and bottles of wine, editing pen hovering over the manuscript.

We encounter the Christie-like characters who populate the village, the antiques dealer with the shady past, the Baronet's disinherited sister Clarissa, the randy minister and his wife, the local physician who can't seem to keep a lock on her drug cabinet, and the recently sacked groundskeeper at the Hall. Seduced by the conundrums and red herrings, we begin to speculate about each person as a potential murderer and just when we believe we're getting warm, like Susan we discover that the final chapters are missing! What a clever trope. With that, Horowitz's second mystery gathers steam as Susan tries to ferret out what Alan Conway was up to and where the lost pages might be hidden.

Anthony Horowitz ( ) well known in Britain for his work with the BBC, Foyle's War, Midsomer Murders, has been awarded several prestigious awards for his work and you will understand why when you read this engaging, tricky, murder mystery that will especially delight lovers of word games. The narration is sheer perfection, the language oh, so British. And the multiple deaths? To my consternation, I couldn't solve even one. See if you can and do let me know.



I liked the smart channeling of Agatha Christie that allowed you to enjoy it as a guilty pleasure by framing it as a book within a book.

Nelson Security Systems said...

I thought this was a really fun, really intriguing mystery--or rather, two mysteries in one. This was the first time I had read anything by Anthony Horowitz and it won't be my last.