54 pages 1 hour read

Anthony Horowitz

Magpie Murders

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2016

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Summary and Study Guide


Written in the spirit of British mystery writer Agatha Christie, Anthony Horowitz’s bestselling whodunit novel Magpie Murders (2017) is a cleverly spun and endlessly suspenseful thriller that is actually a story within a story. Horowitz argues that his mystery novel occupies a unique genre and has the ability to leave the reader with a satisfying ending. Set in present-day London and a quaint English village in the 1940s, the devious and dark story takes its cues from vintage English crime fiction where the reader becomes the sleuth.

Plot Summary

The story begins when book editor Susan Ryeland receives a manuscript for bestselling author Alan Conway. After working with Alan for years, Susan is intimately familiar with his classic detective character, Atticus Pünd. Alan’s novels are set in small English villages where everybody knows everybody. Atticus solves grisly mysteries in these sleepy, secret-harboring communities. The novels pay homage to the greats of crime fiction, including Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle.

In Alan’s latest story, Magpie Murders, Atticus investigates two related deaths in the small town of Saxby-on-Avon. Although Atticus is terminally ill, he travels to the town to unravel the mystery in a last act of detective work. Mary Blakiston, a local busybody and housekeeper of Pye Hall, dies in what seems like an accident. On the night of Mary’s funeral, someone burgles Pye Hall. Two weeks later, an unknown suspect murders wealthy local Magnus Pye. Atticus investigates each of the suspicious villagers, piecing together the events surrounding the two deaths. Magpie Murders ends just as Atticus is about to reveal the murderer’s identity.

Upon finishing the manuscript, Susan discovers that the last chapter of the novel is missing. Soon after, she discovers that Alan Conway supposedly committed suicide. While attempting to find the missing content, she becomes increasingly involved in deciphering the suspicious circumstances surrounding Alan’s death.

After some persistent sleuthing, Susan finds the last chapter of the manuscript in a drawer of her boss Charles’s desk. She discovers that Charles killed Alan to ensure the success of his publishing house and used part of Alan’s manuscript as the suicide note. When Charles discovers that Susan knows the truth and is planning to go to the police, he tries to kill her and throw the missing chapter into a fire.

Within the world of Conway’s novel, Atticus solves his final crime. He reveals that Mary Blakiston’s son Robert was behind Magnus’s murder, and although Mary’s death was an accident, it set off a fatal chain of events within the village.