Magpie Murders

Anthony Horowitz (the Alex Rider series, Moriarty) has created an inventive and layered mystery in Magpie Murders. The story begins as editor Susan Ryeland reads the latest manuscript from Alan Conway, one of Britain's most popular mystery writers. Conway's novel, Magpie Murders, clearly influenced by Agatha Christie, stars a tidy German detective named Atticus Pünd, and is set in a small, 1950s English village. But after almost 200 pages, Atticus Pünd has nearly solved the crime and is about to announce his conclusions when the manuscript stops, leaving Susan to bemusedly wonder how it ends.

The next day, Alan Conway is found dead, having apparently jumped from the roof of his own house. Setting off from London to Alan's countryside estate, Susan begins to recognize that the characters and locations in Magpie Murders were borrowed from Alan's life, and she wonders if the incomplete manuscript is a message from the author.

The novel-within-a-novel and sly references to the editing and writing worlds engage readers in a smart story. With a mix of classic whodunit and modern detection, Horowitz adeptly combines several mystery subgenres. Atticus Pünd's didactic precision and Susan Ryeland's breezy curiosity contrast nicely as each tries to solve their own mystery. The alternating narrators--Susan, Atticus Pünd and his loyal secretary, Alan Conway and Alan's sister--keep the plot churning. Its clever writing and unusual premise make Magpie Murders irresistible. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

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