Thursday, June 22, 2017

Book: "The Magpie Murders" by Anthony Horowitz

Wow! I haven't read Anthony Horowitz before "The Magpie Murders", but now, I'm going to find and read his prior material. As a child, I was fond (still am) of Agatha Christie's mysteries, in particular, her Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. In movies such as "Murder on the Orient Express", "Death on the Nile" and "Death Under the Sun", Poirot came alive through the fine acting of Peter Ustinov and Albert Finney. Poirot - a caricature via the actors if you may - came alive again in the embodiment of one Atticus Pund, the detective investigator of "The Magpie Murders".  Here's summary from 

From the New York Times bestselling author of Moriarty and Trigger Mortis, this fiendishly brilliant, riveting thriller weaves a classic whodunit worthy of Agatha Christie into a chilling, ingeniously original modern-day mystery.  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.  Masterful, clever, and relentlessly suspenseful, Magpie Murdersis a deviously dark take on vintage English crime fiction in which the reader becomes the detective.

...and I couldn't agree more!!!

 But there is a twist!
In this clever, superbly-written whodunnit, there is a book buried within a book - a format I have never read - nor thoroughly enjoyed - until "Magpie". In other words, Horowitz has create a character (Alan Conway) who himself has created a character (Atticus Pund). But when fiction and reality-fiction collide, that's where the ingeniousness of Horowitz is on display. 

The Saxon-upon-Avon murder story, the one I am more fond of, has multiple suspects: a guilt-ridden doctor; an aristocrat landowner and his philandering wife; a busybody housekeeper, her brave son and his tender and protective fiance; a vicar and his wife with, quite literally, nothing to hide; an ex-con and his wife who are proprietors of an antique shop; and a groundskeeper with a past as mysterious as that of Saxon-upon-Avon itself. All combine in a wonderfully crafted mystery as an homage to the English mystery writers of not that long ago. 

Horowitz writes with much detail - one almost is bound by such written "law" when it comes to mysteries; but he also writes with much respect for the intuitive nature of the reader, encouraging and stimulating the reader to solve the mystery as well as Atticus does. Within the detail, Horowitz shows an even greater command of subject matter, character development (backstories) and, of course, the climactic resolution. But, his cleverness is shown in the SUB-story of the book, the death of fictitious-real-fictitious Alan Conway, the "writer" of the Atticus Pund novels. Here, the plots, characters and even resolutions cleverly and intelligently align. The writing is smart, succinct and all blends well to create a mystery-within-a-mystery. 

Looking forward to reading more Anthony Horowitz writing.