We met last night to discuss Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz. We read Horowitz’s first Sherlock Holmes novel, The House of Silk, in 2015 and several of us had seen his television contributions/creations, Foyle’s War and Midsomer Murders.[i] Magpie Murders received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus and was billed by the publisher as a “classic whodunit worthy of Agatha Christie [woven] into a chilling, ingeniously original modern-day mystery.”
So what did we think? Our first responders were enthusiastic. They liked it. It was complicated with thirty different characters and several of us stopped to take notes while reading. One of us thought it was the most complicated story we have read. Another said it was the most complicated story she had liked! We had been frustrated when the vintage-style murder mystery suddenly stopped just shy of the final denouement. Some of us had paged forward. And some of us had lost interest.
At 496 pages, Magpie Murders is long for a book club selection and one of us thought the author was too clever for his own good; she felt left out by not understanding all of his literary, cultural and geographic references. Another had not yet finished it and after our spoilers probably won’t! One of us looked up place names even as we met – such is the wonder of the Internet.
We discussed the author’s purpose, wondering if his reference to plagiarism was personal. One of us mentioned that Nora Roberts had sued Janet Dailey and another of us found that Roberts had recently sued a Brazilian author who is accused of stealing material from “more than 40 writers and nearly 100 books” so far.[ii] Is it stealing if it is not intentional? Horowitz also highlights how authors can create characters from the people around them and how stories are filled with more murders than could possible occur. One of us even quoted how many deaths are in Midsomer Murders.[iii]
Others noted that the novel had been formatted with different fonts for the separate story lines and even different page numbering styles. The audio book had a male and female reader to distinguish the stories. The kindle version was less helpful.
Our discussion was light and peppered with references to other books and facts. I misspoke when I said that The Word is Murder is a second book in the same series as Magpie Murders – it is actually the first in another series that looks to me to be more promising. If you decide to give The Word is Murder a try, let me know what you think.
- Other works discussed:
- Rhys Bowen
- Sandra Brown
- Malcolm Gladwell (Talking to Strangers 2019)
- John Grisham
- Murder She Wrote (T.V. Series with Angela Lansbury)
[i] According to litlovers.com, which references Wikipedia, born in 1955,“Anthony Horowitz, OBE is a prolific English novelist and screenwriter specialising in mystery and suspense. His work for children and teenagers includes The Diamond Brothers series, the Alex Rider series, and The Power of Five series (aka The Gatekeepers). His work for adults includes the novel and play Mindgame (2001) and two Sherlock Holmes novels, The House of Silk (2011) and Moriarty(2014). He has also written extensively for television, contributing numerous scripts to ITV’s Agatha Christie’s Poirot and Midsomer Murders. He was the creator and principal writer of the three ITV series—Foyle’s War, Collision and Injustice.”
[ii] León, C. D. (2019, April 24). Nora Roberts Sues Brazilian Writer Who She Says Plagiarized Her Work. Retrieved November 13, 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/24/books/nora-roberts-plagiarism.html.
[iii] “Up to and including episodes 1 – 8 of series 14, the Midsomer Murders death toll is 246 murders; twelve accidental deaths, eleven suicides and eight deaths from natural causes.” Facts and Trivia. (n.d.). Retrieved November 13, 2019, from https://www.visitmidsomer.com/facts-and-trivia/.