Susan Ryeland is a 40-something book editor for a small but successful London publisher. She edits their top-selling author, Alan Conway, who writes the Atticus Pund mystery series. She begins reading his latest manuscript, Magpie Murders, and we get to read it as well.
That is, we get to read all but the last few chapters. They’re missing. Ryeland talks with her publisher, Charles Clover, about where they might be. Clover gives her a letter from Conway. It’s a suicide note. Conway has jumped from a tower at his home in Somerset.
Or did he?
Ryeland decides to search for the missing chapters. The publishing house may not survive the death of its most celebrated author. She goes to Conway’s home. Not only are the missing chapters not there, there is not a hint of the manuscript on the author’s computer. His diaries are gone, too. Ryeland begins to suspect it wasn’t suicide.
She turns herself into an amateur detective and learns that any one of a number of people had a motive in killing the author – the boyfriend, the former wife, the sister, the investment broker next door, and a few others. It turns out Conway wasn’t a very likeable man. And then she realizes that the final manuscript is more than what it seems; it may hold clues to the identity of the murderer.
Magpie Murders by British author Anthony Horowitz, first published in 2016, is a rather dazzling mystery story that exists in three levels. First is the mystery of the last Conway manuscript – and the book includes the full text (and eventually the missing chapters). Second, it is a mystery story in which Ryeland investigates the purported suicide of her author. And third, it is the story of how the author used all of his mystery novels to do something other than tell a story.
Horowitz has written numerous novels, including two Sherlock Holmes stories, Moriarity and The House of Silk. He is perhaps best known as the creator of two television programs popular in both Great Britain and the United States, Midsomer Murders and Foyle’s War.
Magpie Murders wraps its fingers around your throat and doesn’t let go until the last page.