My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is a mystery within a mystery. The book begins with Susan Ryeland, book editor with Cloverdale Books, receiving the latest book by their best selling author, Alan Conway, for weekend reading. It’s a mystery titled The Magpie Murders, featuring private investigator Atticus Pund. After the first three or four pages, we are thrust into the fictional mystery. At first it was hard to get into. It’s an investigator that exists within this book only and there are references to previous cases/books. After a bit, though, I got into the mystery. There were a lot of clues, but you don’t see who the murderer is and there are a couple of red herrings, including the number of murders and the culprit. Right as we are about to get the resolution, we learn that Susan’s copy has missing pages.
Now, we are back in “real life.” Susan heads to the office on Monday to see if her boss, Charles Clover, has the chapters. He doesn’t and worse - he’s just learned that the author is dead. He committed suicide and sent a suicide letter to Charles.
Susan heads to his home to search for the chapters and after talking with Alan’s much younger boyfriend, James, who he left his wife for, and with his sister, and looking at his diary, Susan begins to believe that perhaps Alan did not commit suicide. Susan was not close with Alan and didn’t particularly like him. We learn that many others didn’t really like him and, in fact, he wasn’t a really likable guy. Susan begins investigating, knowing how crazy it is what she is doing. However, she’s looking for the missing chapters and begins to see parallels between Magpie Murders and Alan’s death.
There is a side story with Susan’s personal life, she has a Greek boyfriend, Andreas, who has decided after his last visit to Crete, that’s he’s going to resign from teaching and take over a hotel on Crete with his cousin. This throws Susan for a loop - she’s not sure she wants to give up her life in England and she’s been offered the opportunity to take over the publishing house so Charles can basically retire and be a grandfather to his new grandbaby.
I won’t go too much further or the whole thing will be given away. Alan was a puzzler first and foremost and he carried it through his books. Once Susan realizes this, she knows what to look for. Clues are laid out, and in fact, I picked up on them in the same niggling fashion Susan did, though I didn’t put it together as fast as she did. The ending is somewhat dramatic and, as stated by our heroine, it costs her dearly. I’m not sure the repercussions would necessarily have been what was written, but maybe so. As I said, Alan was not well liked. There’s an undercurrent here that perhaps since he was so disliked and not a nice person that maybe Susan should have let sleeping dogs lie, that maybe it was okay. He was dying anyway and his death prevented something that would have benefited no one from happening. You wind up wondering if you should think that Susan pursuing what happened was wrong. It’s subtle, but it’s there and really gives one pause for thought.
In the end, I think things for Susan happened as they were meant to be, but it was a hard way to come to the realization. I enjoyed this book and debated between three and four stars, but ultimately went with three because I never quite connected with Susan. I think for such a long book, some of the relationships were hinted at or maybe because they were already established, there just wasn’t a need to provide more. I couldn’t really tell if Andreas and Susan’s relationship should or shouldn’t move forward, but was happy with the ending. Overall, it was an enjoyable read.
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