A Murder of Magpies

The world of book publishing isn't known for its murderous intrigues--unless an author fails to submit a salable manuscript on time. After her most reliably lucrative women's fiction author turns in a pile of sludge, London editor Samantha Clair is seeing red. But when Sam's favorite client--Kit Lovell, a fashion biographer whose new book contains a slew of juicy secrets--goes missing along with his manuscript, Sam puts aside her red pen to hunt for clues. In her first novel, A Murder of Magpies, social historian Judith Flanders (The Invention of Murder) concocts a well-plotted whodunit with a side of whip-smart satire.

Flanders uses Sam, who describes herself as "a middle-aged, middlingly successful editor," to provide a sardonic insider's perspective on publishing: the endless meetings, the constant posturing by editors hungry to snap up the next bestseller, the complete impossibility of getting any reading done during the workday. As Kit's disappearance consumes her thoughts, Sam leaves her assistant to deal with the troublesome manuscript from their star client--and the sleight-of-hand solution to their problem will delight readers.

In her search for Kit, Sam gets a bit of help from her lawyer mother, Helena, and handsome police inspector Jake Field. The romance between Sam and Jake is not quite believable--chiefly because Sam refuses to admit to her feelings--but Jake provides a clear-headed, professional counterpoint to Sam's impulsive amateur sleuth. The solution to the mystery falls a bit flat, but Flanders's razor-sharp wit makes this a satisfying read. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

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