With Magpie Murders you get two mysteries for the price of one.
The first mystery is Magpie Murders itself, the final book in a successful series written by Alan Conway. The deaths in that story take place in the village of Saxby-on-Avon in 1955. The second mystery is the current day murder? accident? suicide? investigated by Susan Ryeland, Conway's editor.
When Ms. Ryeland reads the as yet unpublished manuscript of Conway's book featuring his popular detective Atticus Lünd, she discovers the final chapters are missing. Alas! Who then, she speculates, is the murderer?
Before that question can be answered, a real dead body turns up and Ms. Ryeland is lured by her own curiosity and love of murder mysteries to investigate that death. There are clues to be found everywhere from the quintessential British village where the current day death took place to the fictional characters in Magpie Murders itself.
This was a fascinating read with many compelling characters - two books' worth - and references to Agatha Christie and other Golden Age mysteries, along with a healthy dose of word puzzles.
I had not read anything about the book, so it all was a surprise and I hope I haven't spoiled too much for you if you decide to read it. It's a good old-fashioned puzzler with plenty of twists and turns. At 500 pages, it's a terrific book to get lost in.
I was amazed that Mr. Horowitz, who has had a hand in writing the television mysteries Foyle's War and Midsomer Murders, could keep track of all the people, places, and plot points. I kept picturing him in his office with walls covered in pink and yellow Post-it notes scribbled with character names and time lines. However he did it, it worked.