Narrator: Samantha Bond, Allan Corduner
Published by Harper Audio on June 6, 2017
Length: 15 hrs 47 mins
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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 thought 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.