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Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

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Magpie Murders by  Anthony Horowitz Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz
Narrator: Samantha Bond, Allan Corduner
Published by Harper Audio on June 6, 2017
Source: Purchased
Genres: Mystery
Length: 15 hrs 47 mins
Format: Audiobook
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When editor Susan Ryeland is given the manuscript of Alan Conway’s latest novel, she has no reason to think it will be much different from any of his others. After working with the bestselling crime writer for years, she’s intimately familiar with his detective, Atticus Pünd, who solves mysteries disturbing sleepy English villages. An homage to queens of classic British crime such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers, Alan’s traditional formula has proved hugely successful. So successful that Susan must continue to put up with his troubling behavior if she wants to keep her job.

Conway’s latest tale has Atticus Pünd investigating a murder at Pye Hall, a local manor house. Yes, there are dead bodies and a host of intriguing suspects, but the more Susan reads, the more she’s convinced that there is another story hidden in the pages of the manuscript: one of real-life jealousy, greed, ruthless ambition, and murder.

I should have loved Magpie Murders. It’s definitely a book for mystery readers. Not only does it have two well-plotted mysteries, it has some great quotes about the nature of mysteries and reading.

“You must know that feeling when it’s raining outside and the heating’s on and you lose yourself, utterly, in a book. You read and you read and you feel the pages slipping through your fingers until suddenly there are fewer in your right hand than there are in your left and you want to slow down but you still hurtle on towards a conclusion you can hardly bear to discover.”

“As far as I’m concerned, you can’t beat a good whodunnit: the twists & turns, the clues and the red herrings and then, finally, the satisfaction of having everything explained to you in a way that makes you kick yourself because you hadn’t seen it from the start.”

The set up is great, a novel within a novel, both murder mysteries. In the “real world,” editor Susan Ryeland is reading the manuscript for Magpie Murders, but the last chapter is missing, and as all mystery reader know, that’s when the grand denouement happens, so to not have that is incredibly frustrating. The problem is, the author, Alan Conway, is dead, an apparent suicide. Obviously, he was actually murdered and Susan becomes our amateur detective, of course almost gets killed in the process of solving the crime.

I listened to the audio and I do think having two narrators worked well, one for the manuscript and one for Susan’s portion of the story. Each did a good job and fit their part well.The problem for me is that I cared more about the “fictional” mystery than about Susan’s life and investigations. I liked the traditional English town mystery, with the investigator who is always just a step ahead, who puts all the clues and coincidences together. I was drawn into the town gossip, the secrets, the characters. Then we came to Susan’s life in London and, honestly, I was a little annoyed. Her story just wasn’t as engrossing for me. It was interesting how the “real” world mirrored Saxby-on-Avon from the manuscript, but I wish the two mysteries had been equally compelling and they just weren’t.

Edited: I wanted to add that there was an odd sound way in the background of the recording. Every time I was listening to the book until I realized what was going on, I though I heard the dog, the sound of his tags rattling. I finally realized it was the book. I can’t really put my finger on what it was, the recording equipment or something, but it wasn’t my player because it doesn’t happen with other books.

About Anthony Horowitz

Anthony Horowitz is one of the most prolific and successful writers working in the UK – and is unique for working across so many media, juggling writing books, TV series, films, plays and journalism.

Anthony has written over 40 books including the bestselling teen spy series Alex Rider, which he adapted into a movie that was released worldwide in 2006. Anthony is also an acclaimed writer for adults and was commissioned by the Conan Doyle Estate and Orion Books to write two new Sherlock Holmes novels. The House of Silk was published in November 2011 and was internationally lauded as the top title of the autumn. The sequel, Moriarty, was published in October 2014 with similar success. Most recently he was commissioned by the Ian Fleming Estate to write the James Bond novel Trigger Mortis, which was published on 8th September 2015.

Anthony is responsible for creating and writing some of the UK’s most beloved and successful television series, producing the first seven episodes (and the title) of Midsomer Murders. He is the writer and creator of award-winning drama series Foyle’s War. Anthony has also written other original complex dramas for ITV, particularly thrillers.

Anthony is on the board of the Old Vic Theatre. He regularly contributes to a wide variety of national newspapers and magazines on subjects ranging from politics to education. He has been a patron to East Anglia Children’s Hospices and the anti-bullying charity, Kidscape, since 2008.

Anthony was awarded an OBE for his services to literature in January 2014.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

A Voice in the Night by Andrea Camilleri

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A Voice in the Night by Andrea Camilleri A Voice in the Night by Andrea Camilleri
Narrator: Grover Gardner
Series: Commissario Montalbano #20
Published by Blackstone Audio on November 15, 2016
Source: Library
Genres: Mystery
Length: 6 hrs 18 mins
Format: Audiobook
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Montalbano investigates a robbery at a supermarket, a standard case that takes a spin when manager Guido Borsellino is later found hanging in his office. Was it a suicide? Inspector Montalbano and the coroner have their doubts, and further investigation leads to the director of a powerful local company.

Meanwhile, a girl is found brutally murdered in Giovanni Strangio's apartment - Giovanni has a flawless alibi, and it's no coincidence that Michel Strangio, president of the province, is his father. Weaving together these two crimes, Montalbano realizes that he's in a difficult spot where political power is enmeshed with the Mafia underworld.

I’ve read/listened to several Montalbano mysteries. In A Voice in the Night we’ve got several of the series standards – corrupt politicians, police who are being pressured for certain results,  good food. Montalbano is a good cop, in that he’s not in the mafia’s pocket and is not afraid to go against the politicians. He doesn’t always stick to the law, though.

Both of the mysteries have their twists and turns. I especially liked how the young woman’s murder was plotted, even though I felt bad for the boyfriend. As always, I find Salvo amusing and interesting. The title is perfect, it pulls from a pivotal part of the story, one that may not actually put Montalbano in the best light, but does highlight his need to find the real culprit, not just accept what “they” want.

I’ll definitely read more in the series, but they’re not gripping enough to buy; I always borrow them from the library. They are consistent though – light, pretty short, decent mysteries and characters who are pretty consistent over the series. I know what I’m getting when I pick up a Montalbano story and I’m rarely disappointed. I’m also rarely astounded.

About Andrea Camilleri

Andrea Camilleri (born September 6, 1925 in Porto Empedocle) is an Italian writer. He is considered one of the greatest Italian writers of both 20th and 21st centuries. Camilleri lives in Rome where he works as a TV and theatre director. About 10 million copies of his novels have been sold to date, and are becoming increasingly popular in the UK and North America.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

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The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi
Narrator: Wil Wheaton
Series: The Interdependency #1
Published by Audible Studios on March 21, 2017
Source: Purchased
Genres: Science Fiction
Length: 9 hrs 23 mins
Format: Audiobook
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Our universe is ruled by physics and faster than light travel is not possible -- until the discovery of The Flow, an extra-dimensional field we can access at certain points in space-time that transport us to other worlds, around other stars.

Humanity flows away from Earth, into space, and in time forgets our home world and creates a new empire, the Interdependency, whose ethos requires that no one human outpost can survive without the others. It’s a hedge against interstellar war -- and a system of control for the rulers of the empire.

The Flow is eternal -- but it is not static. Just as a river changes course, The Flow changes as well, cutting off worlds from the rest of humanity. When it’s discovered that The Flow is moving, possibly cutting off all human worlds from faster than light travel forever, three individuals -- a scientist, a starship captain and the Empress of the Interdependency -- are in a race against time to discover what, if anything, can be salvaged from an interstellar empire on the brink of collapse.

The Collapsing Empire is my first Scalzi book, but since it’s the first in a new series in a new world that wasn’t a problem.  I have to say I really enjoyed it. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was getting good review and I needed an audio for the Sci-Fi Readathon. Now, I’m a little upset that I have to wait for the next in the series, which, at least according to Goodreads, isn’t expected until 2019. 🙁

The Flow has allowed humans to build a far-flung empire, the Interdependency. The Interdependency is set up so that all the colonies must depend on each other, hence the name. The problem is the flow is changing, moving, becoming inaccessible – outposts will be cut-off, unable to send or receive supplies or people. Eventually, it’s going to be a matter of survival, but now it’s a political issue, one that the brand-new Emperox has to handle.

It’s clearly the first in the series. We get to know the world and some of the major characters. I did like the strong, well-developed female characters, including Cardenia Wu-Patrick, the emperox, the cunning and maybe brilliant Lady Nadashe of a merchant family. I will admit that Lady Kiva Lagos annoyed me a little for her constant use of a choice expletive – I found it a lazy way to tell us she’s tough and unafraid of going against convention.

It’s was funny too, which surprised me a bit. I listened to the audio. Wil Wheaton is the narrator, which is honestly part of the reason I picked it up, but I’m not sure I loved him as the narrator. I can’t put my finger on why, and he was fine, I just never really bought into it. He never disappeared into the story for me, if that makes sense. It wasn’t enough to stop me from listening to other things he narrates, but I certainly won’t seek them out.

Mostly The Collapsing Empire was a lead up to the story. It’s just the start of the chaos to come.

About John Scalzi

John Michael Scalzi II (born May 10, 1969) is an American science fiction author and former president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. He is best known for his Old Man’s War series, three novels of which have been nominated for the Hugo Award, and for his blog Whatever, where he has written on a number of topics since 1998. He won the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer in 2008 based predominantly on that blog, which he has also used for several charity drives. His novel Redshirts won the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Novel. He has written non-fiction books and columns on diverse topics such as finance, video games, films, astronomy, writing and politics, and served as a creative consultant for the TV series Stargate Universe.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

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