The first book of the year – ta da! Don’t look at the calendar. I know it’s the 14th. I actually finished it a couple nights ago, which is only slightly better. I saw several blog posts about this book and it sounded so right up my street that I had to get a copy now now now. Then I made myself wait until the 1st to start it so it would count for Bev’s Clues challenge.
It seemed like a fun one to start with. Two books in one. The first half is the manuscript of the 9th Atticus Pünd novel, Magpie Murders, which is being read by his editor Susan Ryeland. The novel within the novel is an Agatha Christie type – mysterious deaths in a small village, small circle of suspects, European detective and not bright sidekick set in 1955. (I had trouble remembering that at first. Whooping cough? Why would they die of whooping cough? Oh, right. 1955) The trouble is I found this half a bit slow and stilted. Whether it’s the effort of writing it like it’s 1955, the German detective or he wanted to make it like that, I’m not sure. The mystery starts with a housekeeper falling down the stairs in the local great house Pye Hall. Sir Magnus Pye is away (Magnus Pye — get it?) and the housekeeper is alone in the house. It appears to be a tragic accident. But is it? Atticus at first refuses to investgate, but changes his mind after the second death. And I had a serious problem with the second death because lopping someone’s head off with a sword is not easy. Even axemen with compliant nobles laying their heads on chopping blocks back in the day sometimes had difficulty with it. An amateur doing it with a moving target – ridiculous. And if you managed it, I’m sure you’d be covered in blood. But I’m probably way too uptight about things like that.
The second half flows a lot better. The author, Alan Conway, dies, an apparent suicide. But is he? He seems to have fought with everyone he knew. Thin-skinned, irascible, annoying-as-hell, the suspects include everyone he knew, at least in Susan’s eyes. No one else seems to think his death was anything other than what it appeared. Susan’s an annoying investigator to me. She’s kind of obnoxious and seems to miss a lot throughout as she keeps saying things like, I didn’t realize until much later… But I think Anthony Horowitz pulls it out at the end, which makes up for all the typos in the book. All right, no it doesn’t. Someone get a damn proofreader in here. Why on earth should we pay the money we do for new books when they can’t be bothered? They don’t have half of the expenses they used to (this one was print, but only because I couldn’t wait for the Kindle version. That’s what comes from reading British book blogs. Sometimes they get things before us. And some of us are impatient.) At any rate, a decent ending can save all the rest and I thought it was pretty good.
So, for Bev’s Follow the Clues Mystery Challenge I’m following this up with an Agatha Christie. Not only is the Magpie Murders manuscript a Christie homage, there’s an appearance by Christie’s grandson in the book. I’m going with the last Tommy and Tuppence — Postern of Fate. I guess it’s the last book she wrote as the last two published were written years before so both Marple and Poirot would have a final case.
I like this Follow the Clues idea so well I’m also doing a non-mystery follow-up. I don’t know whether this will work or not, (and the trail is thin to be sure) but because the phrase ‘crazy pavement’ is used twice in the book, I decided to read Beverly Nicholl’s Crazy Pavements. A novel about Bright Young Things in the 20s or 30s. Not sure which.
This books also qualifies for the Wild Goose Chase #2 – a bird in the title. And I might as well make it my UK book for the Reading Europe challenge.