The book is actually, two mysteries in one. Inside you have the manuscript of a book called the Magpie Murders and a mystery actually taking place within the universe. A book within a book if you will. The story revolves primarily around the editor Susan Ryland, who must read what seems to be the penultimate novel in the best selling Atticus Pünd series by Alan Conway. However, as she delves into this final mystery, she discovers an apparent mystery of her own which needs solving.
Magpie Murders manages to capture that quintessential feeling of old English thrillers. From the use of quirky little mannerisms of small town English life, the foreign detective trying to fit into English society, or the complex web of interweaving motivations and red herrings which keep you guessing till the end. Thankfully though, although it owes a note of inspiration to Poirot, it sets itself apart. It is set in the 1950s for one, and captures the post-war feel rather well.
The nods to Agatha Christie are there, from Pünd having a well meaning but inept assistant based on a lover, to characters based (often unflattering) on people who the (fictional) author knew. Some of this comes off as a great homage, and not a little bit of gentle ribbing against the genre in general.
It is this aspect of the book that falls on the shoulders of poor Susan Ryland!
She is a quirky character. She offers some running commentary on the book within the book, the genre, and how things never quite work out like they do in these novels. Unfortunately for her, she has to put up with how obnoxious and rude Alan Conway actually is, and his behavior seems only to be getting worse as things begin to take a dark turn. Sadly, she finds she may be in way over her head.
Filled with witty commentary, fun dialogue, and the darker side of humanity Magpie Murders is a gripping read. There's twists and turns that, like any good mystery novel, will keep you guessing to the end.
Now of course, were I to go on much more, there would be spoilers galore. So I'll avoid that. However, if you want to enjoy a great whodunnit novel, Magpie Murders is the book for you!