Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

Any Golden Age fan is bound to be drawn to Anthony Horowitz's recent novel, Magpie Murders. It's an example of metaficiton, in which Horowitz combines a capable pastiche of a Christie-style whodunit with a contemporary mystery, and a dollop of satire about the publishing business. There are plenty of jokes (the last Horowitz novel I read, The Killing Joke, also gave his wit a pleasing showcase) and there's ingenuity in abundance.

The first half of the book comprises a novel set in the year Horowitz was born, 1955. A cleaner has died in rather mysterious circumstances, and soon her employer, Sir Magnus Pye, is brutally murdered. There is no shortage of motives or suspects - but shortly before the climax, the story comes to a sudden halt. We are then transported to the present, and the publishing. Alan Conway, author of the story, has died, having apparently committed suicide - and the last two chapters of his novel seem to be missing.

Most of the rest of the story is narrated by Conway's editor, Susan, who begins to suspect that in fact Conway was murdered. Once again, she discovers a variety of people with good cause to wish that the author was dead. But which of them is guilty? There's a "least likely person" explanation that is pleasing, even if the motivation is thin. And then, at the end of the story, we are given the solution to the mystery in Conway's novel - and, once more, a suitably unlikely culprit is unmasked..

I like Horowitz's writing very much. He has a real gift for entertainment, as evidenced by his many successes with TV screenplays (which earn more than one mention in the book; I see this not as showing off, but rather as an illustration of his teasing sense of humour) as well as by his fiction. The first half of the book is, at times, rather slow-moving, but this is explained by the need to plant a range of pleasing clues. It's all very cleverly and agreeably handled. An interestingly original take on classic crime fiction which I was very glad to read.


Kate said...

this was a good one

Xavier said...

I am a big fan of his too, especially his short stories. I look forward to reading Magpie Murders as I have heard and read many things about it from people whose judgement I trust - that includes you of course. Why don't you invite him to join the Detection Club? He would certainly be a worthy addition.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this very much, particularly the re-creation of a 1950s mystery novel - much more convincing, I thought, than Sophie Hannah's heavy-handed continuations of the Poirot serie.