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Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz. What can I say, it was a book within a book. Two whodunits in one. A traditional mystery set in the 1950s and a modern day murder stemming from it. Anthony Horowitz is a very prolific writer of fiction, writing for television (Midsomer Murders, Foyle's War & Poirot), movies, and books. We suspect he doesn’t sleep, which is how he finds the time to write as much as he does.

For those with no short term memory, here’s a synopsis of the book: When editor Susan Ryeland is given the manuscript of Alan Conway’s latest novel, she has no reason to think it will be much different from any of his others. After working with the bestselling crime writer for years, she’s intimately familiar with his detective, Atticus Pünd, who solves mysteries disturbing sleepy English villages. An homage to queens of classic British crime such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers, Alan’s traditional formula has proved hugely successful. So successful that Susan must continue to put up with his troubling behavior if she wants to keep her job. Conway’s latest tale has Atticus Pünd investigating a murder at Pye Hall, a local manor house. Yes, there are dead bodies and a host of intriguing suspects, but the more Susan reads, the more she’s convinced that there is another story hidden in the pages of the manuscript: one of real-life jealousy, greed, ruthless ambition, and murder.

First of all, so many of us fell for the 235 trick. We opened the book at the end to see how many pages it was. Unfortunately, since it was two books in one, the second started at page 1 again, so it was over 400 pages in total. Not a problem, unless you saved it until the weekend before book club, thinking you would sail through 235 pages in no time. The negative comments seemed to stem from how this pissed a lot of people off. As did the fact that the Atticus part of the novel went straight through, with no interruptions. Part two started where we saw Susan Ryeland trying to figure out if Alan Conway was murdered or committed suicide, but many would have liked to see the book toggle back and forth between the two. Others liked the uninterrupted storytelling and felt we might have gotten confused if it had toggled.

Other than those two things, everyone really seemed to enjoy the book. I think I heard the words “loved it” used more than ever before. We had several scores that wanted to creep up past 10, but Stephanie threatened to lower her score if we allowed it. Therefore, the book received eight 10s (I would be interested to know if we have ever given a book that many), two 9s, three 8.5s, one 8, one 7.5, and one 6.

Chris doesn’t like British mysteries and was shocked that she not only loved this one, but gave it a 10. Even though there were a ton of characters, Raj managed to keep them all straight and enjoyed the book. We loved that it was a story within a story and that the Atticus book characters mirrored the people in Alan Conway’s life. We liked all of the intricacies of the story and how each and every issue was wound around and threaded through the story (see Stephanie’s comment below, though). Many of us did not guess the whodunit that Atticus solved, but a few guessed who killed Alan Conway.

I personally loved the nursery rhyme angle, the fact that the Atticus whodunit solution was something that you would read in an Agatha Christie novel, the clues that threaded throughout the story, and the small village setting where everyone had a secret – but only one led to murder.

Jose thought it was clever, but Stephanie thought it was a bit too clever (she was also mad she fell for the 235 page thing). The other thing we learned was that apparently you can’t just knock on the door of any random British citizen and be invited in for tea and crumpets. I mean what the heck? Why not, I ask you? How can this NOT be true? Our bubble was burst to find this out, but it led us to realize that when Susan Ryeland took it upon herself to “interview” all of Conway’s acquaintances and relatives and they not only served her refreshments, but poured out their whole life stories, well this may have been a stretch. Sigh.

Some of us want Anthony Horowitz to go on the book list again, maybe for one if his Sherlock Homes books? Jose plans to never read him again. He wants to go out on a good note and he doesn’t think he will read anything by the author that tops Magpie Murders, so he doesn’t even want to chance it. Come on Jose, live dangerously. Don't be George Costanza!

George Goes Out On A High Note

Kelly won the Anagram Nursery Rhyme puzzle and Raj won the Magpie Murders quiz. Each won a copy of the Christmas book. Which reminds me to remind you, the Christmas party and club meeting will be on Friday, December 14th at my house. I will send a formal invite and request RSVPs sometime in November, but mark your calendars if you plan to come.

Thanks to Jeff for sending us the File:Horowitz-Conway-interview.pdf. I liked how everyone was named after a car. Made sense since he already used birds and what was it, trees?

Next month we will meet on October 22nd to discuss The Hush by John Hart. Jose will lead and Sharon K and Cindy will provide a snack.

Don’t forget your HALLOWEEN COSTUME. There will be a prize for best costume. Jeff thinks he’s already won it, so game on everyone! Or is it, the game is afoot?

Kerry

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