Magpie Murders

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

At the Seattle bookstore where I found There There, I also discovered Magpie Murders. Mystery novels have been growing on me, and this one had good reviews, so I decided to give it a try. The book is split into two distinct yet related murder cases. It reminded of Gone Girl, which (spoilers) also featured a complete 180 midway through. Even though the first half was great, it would have made for a run-of-the-mill English detective story as a standalone, so I liked how the author completely changed the complexion of the book with the second murder case.

1) “One for sorrow, Two for joy, Three for a girl, Four for a boy, Five for silver, Six for gold, Seven for a secret, Never to be told.”

The author references Agatha Christie a lot – it’s cool to see this from “And Then There Were None.”

2) “But such gossip cannot be confronted. Rumours and malicious gossip are like bindweed. They cannot be cut back, even with the sword of truth.”

There’s an interesting point about how a lot of murder stories take place in villages. In that setting, everyone knows everyone, so every character becomes a suspect. This also works when you put everyone on an island or on a train.

3) “‘There are no wasted journeys in the detection of a crime.'” – Atticus Pund

There are no wasted journeys in the detection of a bug.

4) “And let’s not forget that Clarissa had a key to the front door of Pye Hall. It’s mentioned once – on page 25 – though not again.”

The best thing about the meta mystery is that it gives a perspective into the writing of murder mysteries.

5) “I took out my iPhone and moved away from the front door so that I could get a picture of the whole thing. I didn’t know why I did that, but then why does anyone take photographs ever? We never look at them any more.”

I used to not take pictures, but now I do. It’s true that I almost never look at them, but when I do, it’s really like living that part of my life again.

6) “I held out the packet and suddenly we were friends. That’s one of the only good things about being a smoker these days. You’re part of a persecuted minority.”

Love in a Puff.

7) “‘Oh yes. James Fraser, the dumb blond assistant – that’s me.'” – James Taylor

How do authors create their characters? They’re usually some combination of people they know in real life.

8) “Why is it that we have such a need for murder mystery and what is it that attracts us – the crime or the solution? Do we have some primal need for bloodshed because our own lives are so safe, so comfortable?”

For me, I love how the solutions always make sense in retrospect. Next time I read a murder mystery, I’m going to draw out character maps and really try to figure it out.

9) “He was just so sure that the book was brilliant and you have to ask yourself, if you’re a writer sitting alone in a room, how can you keep going otherwise? It must be awful having that total self belief, only to find that you’ve been wrong all the time.”

One day I’ll summon this confidence to write a book.

10) “Whodunnits are all about truth: nothing more, nothing less. In a world full of uncertainties, is it not inherently satisfying to come to the last page with every i dotted and every t crossed?” 

Answer to 8.

Magpie Murders as a murder mystery case was not as thrilling as either of the two Agatha Christie stories I’ve read, but the meta mystery was a really nice twist.

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