Bryn’s Books: “The Magpie Murders”


Credit: Elizabeth Zhong

In the latest installment of “Bryn’s Books,” junior guest writer Bryn Leonard reviews “The Magpie Murders” and details the most prominent factors of the novel.

It is not often that I come across a book within a book—it’s a rare occurrence in literature. Still, if done well, it can create an impressive and thought-provoking story. In “Magpie Murders,” the reader gets to read two mysteries at once that correlate with one another. Author Anthony Horowitz takes the concept of a book within a book to create a magnificent and unforgettable mystery that grabbed my attention from the very first page.

The novel opens with Susan Ryeland, the editor for the publishing company Cloverleaf Books. Ryeland reads the draft for a new mystery titled “Magpie Murders” written by their prized author, Alan Conway. Set in the 1950s about the brilliant German detective Atticus Pünd, the “whodunnit” mystery who figures out the mystery of a woman found dead at the bottom of the stairs. After reading the draft, Ryeland is informed about Conway’s mysterious and unexpected death. Unfortunately, “Magpie Murders” misses essential last chapters, jeopardizing the future of Cloverleaf Books. Using evidence from the unfinished mystery, Ryeland pieces together information from the two mysteries, one in real life and one fictional, to figure out the cause of Conway’s death.

The reader gets to read the entire draft of “Magpie Murders” along with Ryeland (hence the concept of a book within a book). The novel switches between the text of “Magpie Murders” and Ryeland’s point of view as she reads the story and voices her observations and opinions to the reader.

The story is cleverly crafted and has many complex layers that unfold throughout the entire novels that lead to many unexpected turns from both stories. The hidden details, twists, and parallels between the events in Ryeland’s world and Conway’s fictional world keep the reader actively engaged. “Magpie Murders” is very fast-paced, and there is always something new happening.

The only downside of this book is that it can be challenging to comprehend what is happening between the two different narratives. It is not the kind of book that a reader can pick up and take breaks with—it requires a reader’s full attention to catch the essential details between both stories to appreciate the full experience of the novel.

I was never much of a fan of whodunnits. Still, this story was so unconventional and captivating that it is one of my favorite books. It is not the best story for those who don’t enjoy paying attention to every little detail or those who don’t have the energy to digest and process the information in the novel. I strongly recommend everyone to give this book a try, especially for those who enjoy mysteries and want to explore a unique novel.

Bryn’s rating: 4/5