The last thing Atticus Pünd wants to do is to investigate one last case – and it will be his last, as he has received grave news from his doctor – but following a request to look into the accidental death of Mary Blakiston, a busybody cleaning lady, who fell to her death down a flight of stairs. It had to be an accident, after all – the doors to the house were all locked. But when the owner of the house is decapitated – and not in an accident – Pünd and his young friend James Fraser find themselves hunting one last murderer.
This is the summary for the latest Atticus Pund novel from Alan Conway, but Susan Ryeland, who works at Clover Books, his publisher, would never expect the effect that the book will have on her life. As the book progresses, it is clear that there is something more here than a simple Golden Age detective novel. Soon events in real life start to take precedence – just what was Alan Conway trying to achieve? And why has someone resorted to real life murder?
OK, this is going to be a tricky one to review, especially given my spoiler policy – generally, I don’t mention anything that happens after the first third of a mystery novel, but there’s a very clear change of direction at almost exactly the halfway mark. So I’m going to have to tiptoe round that bit.
The thing is, even if this book was just the Pünd manuscript, this would be worth the admission price. People were very critical of Sophie Hannah’s Poirot continuations, but I wonder, if they were of this style, would people have been so disappointed? For Pünd is very Poirot-esque, while still being his own character, and the mystery is a thing of beauty – fairly clued, while still being original, and with a perfect solution that I missed by a mile.
And then you get the second half, that I won’t go into detail about, but it’s just as satisfying – a second mystery with strong ties to the first, along with a stunning clue hidden in plain sight.
The less you know about Magpie Murders before reading it, the better, so I’ll leave it at this – a deeply satisfying multi-layered mystery novel that you won’t be able to put down. A tribute to the Golden Age while still bringing things into the present day. Highly Recommended.
Stay tuned to the blog as in a week or so, I’ll be taking a look at Horowitz’s latest mystery, The Word Is Murder. If it’s half as good as this one, I’m in for a treat.