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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

Harper, 496 pages, $27.99 (and worth every penny)

If I ever stop raving about this book, it will be because I’m dead.

Anthony Horowitz has mastered the art of writing a mystery so much so that he can even be full-blown meta about it. Yes, this is a mystery within a mystery. And each one is superb.

I don’t want to give too much away, so here are the bare bones.

Right from the start you find out that an editor at a publishing company in present-day London has as her main client a dislikable, but immensely popular, mystery writer. The publishing company has received his latest manuscript, but it is missing the crucial whodunnit pages at the end.

Horowitz actually presents this manuscript, set in 1955, in a small village in the English countryside. (Can you say "cozy"?) He writes in the mystery writer’s voice. Then he places that story within another mystery eggshell. The present-day editor must find the missing pages. It should simply be a matter of asking the author for those pages, except the author has died by falling off the tower of his eccentric home in the English countryside.

Was it murder? Ohmygosh, was the author murdered for what his book revealed? Or, Occam’s razor, was it suicide?

Horowitz makes every character appear suspicious. He drops legitimate clues throughout the two stories. There are red herrings. There are two remarkable detectives, meta-fictional Atticus Pünd and simply fictional Susan Ryeland. Hats are offed to myriad other mystery novelists, especially Dame Agatha. It is clear that Horowitz is a fan and a scholar of the genre. Fair play to you, Mr. Horowitz!

Most definitely an MBTB star!

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