Magpie Murders

A mystery within a mystery

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Now that there’s been snow in the lowlands of Whatcom County and the sun sets before 5pm, it’s time to flip on the gas fireplace and cozy up with a stack of mysteries from the library. Anthony Horowitz’s latest thriller is just the thing to take your mind off the weather and distressing news headlines.

The tale begins in the London flat of Susan Ryeland, longtime editor of the Atticus Pünd detective novels. She’s just received the manuscript of Magpie Murders, Alan Conway’s latest, and though she’s never cared for the difficult author, she’s always been a fan of his books. But she begins with a warning: This book cost her her job, many friends, even her home. Reader, beware!

Magpie Murders is a book within a book, and it works on both levels. First, you get the manuscript, in its entirety, which follows Atticus Pünd’s investigation of the murder of Mary Blakiston. Mary, a cranky village busybody, was found dead at the foot of the stairs of Pye Hall, the local manor house. In typical whodunit fashion, we meet a cast of suspects, each with their motive for wanting Mary dead.

There’s Blakiston’s son Robert, who loudly argued with his mother just days before her demise. Or Dr. Emilia Redwing, who discovered the body. And don’t overlook the Reverend Robin Osborne and his wife Henrietta, who were on holiday when Mary Blakiston died—but have mysterious late-night doings in the woods of the Dingle Dell.

It’s not until a second murder occurs in sleepy Saxby-on-Avon that Pünd takes the case in earnest. Despite a recent terminal diagnosis of his own, Pünd agrees to help his colleague Inspector Chubb investigate the death of Sir Magnus Pye, beheaded with a sword from an antique suit of armor.

If this seems like familiar territory, it is. “Author” Alan Conway (and by extension, Anthony Horowitz) clearly draws from the tradition of Dame Agatha Christie, less the racial slurs and antisemitism that marred Christie’s beloved bestsellers. There are red herrings, British manners, and even recurring nursery rhyme themes to move the plot along.

But Magpie Murders really gets interesting when Susan Ryeland arrives at the end of the manuscript—only to discover the ending is missing. Two days later, Alan Conway is dead. And Susan has a real-life mystery on her hands. Did Alan suspect that someone was out to get him?  Did he insert clues into his last manuscript?  What happened to the final pages?

Horowitz keeps the pacing taut, the clues clever, and the twists surprising. Readers who enjoy playing armchair detective will not be disappointed.

Christine Perkins is the Executive Director of the Whatcom County Library System. She’s read all 66 Agatha Christie mysteries (available at your library) and looks forward to watching Murder on the Orient Express on the big screen.

ICU Roof #2
More Words...
Unexpected Treasures
A collection for the ages

In a town known for its abundance of resident poets and writers, Port Townsend poet Finn Wilcox has long been considered a local treasure. 

For more than three decades he has been crafting clear, poignant and jewel-like poems from distinctly non-literary pursuits—riding freights and…

more »
Fading Frequency
KMRE community radio’s uncertain future

Two trends in broadcast media appear to be moving in tandem and accelerating. One is the continued consolidation and monopolization of media in the hands of fewer and fewer players. The other, not surprisingly given the first trend, is the increasing homogeneity and bland sameness of…

more »
A scary story of survival

“CamperForce. Your next RV adventure is here.”

Thus promises Amazon’s CamperForce website in its seasonal labor recruitment pitch to “enthusiastic RVers who help make the holidays bright for customers of Amazon.com.” Based on several years of corresponding and camping with these…

more »
Home for the Holidays

5:00pm|Ferndale Events Center

The 39 Steps

7:00pm|Sehome High School Little Theatre

Little Women

7:00pm|Ferndale High School

Peter and the Star Catcher

7:00pm|Squalicum High School

Romeo, You Idiot!

7:30pm|Heiner Theater


7:30pm|Mount Baker High School

Craft Bazaar

9:00am|American Legion Post #43

Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am|Meridian Street

Hot Cider & Cool Art

10:00am|Morgan Block Studios

Used Book Sale

10:00am|Everson Library

Red Barn Handpicked Holiday Market

12:00pm|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

Holiday Gifts from the Kitchen

3:00pm|Lynden Library, Ferndale Library

It's Where the Sidewalk Ends

6:00pm|Bellingham Arts Academy for Youth

New Music, New Dance

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center Concert Hall

The Big Short One-Act Festival

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Bellingham Repertory Dance's Emerge

7:30pm|Firehouse Performing Arts Center

Backyard Brawl

8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

VFW Breakfast

8:00am|VFW Hall

Pancake Breakfast

8:00am|Ferndale Senior Center

Pancake Feed

8:00am|VFW Post 1585

Holiday Bazaar

9:00am|Hillcrest Chapel

Christmas in the Woods

9:00am|Garden Spot Nursery

NSEA Work Party

9:00am|Acme Elementary School

Turkey Trot

9:00am|Squalicum Creek Park

Climate Reality

10:00am|Bellingham Public Library

South Fork Winterfest

10:00am|Van Zandt Community Hall

Fall Gardening

10:00am|Lynden Library

Cheese Fest

10:00am|Everybody's Store

Bellingham Farmers Market

10:00am|Depot Market Square

Rexville Grange Holiday Art Show

10:00am|Rexville Grange

Holiday Farmers Market

10:00am|Port of Anacortes Transit Shed Event Center

Lynden Book Club

10:30am|Everson Library

Salmon Sighting

12:00pm|Haynie Creek

Conquering Writer's Block

2:00pm|South Whatcom Library

Fishboy Holiday Show

2:00pm|FishBoy Gallery

NaNoWriMo and Indie Publishing

3:00pm|Everson Library

Skagit Wine & Beer Festival


Homeless Summit and Cold Weather Giveaway

3:00pm|Maritime Heritage Park

i.e. artists talk

3:30pm|i.e. gallery

Small Works Opening

4:00pm|Matzke Fine Art Gallery and Sculpture Park

Smith & Vallee Artist Talk

4:00pm| Smith & Vallee Gallery

WA 129 Poetry Reading

6:00pm|Maple Hall

Giving from the Heart

7:00pm|Depot Art Center

A Light in the Darkness

7:00pm|Church of the Assumption

Welcome Home Celebration

7:00pm|Village Books

Ruach Consort

7:00pm|St. Paul's Episcopal Church

Contra Dance

7:00pm|Eagles Hall

Michael Kaeshammer

7:30pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Legends of the Blues V

7:30pm|Byrnes Performing Arts Center

Peter and the Star Catcher

7:00pm|Squalicum High School


7:30pm|Mount Baker High School

Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am|Meridian Street

Bellingham Repertory Dance's Emerge

7:30pm|Firehouse Performing Arts Center

Rexville Grange Holiday Art Show

10:00am|Rexville Grange

Cheese Fest

10:00am|Everybody's Store

Holiday Farmers Market

10:00am|Port of Anacortes Transit Shed Event Center

Rabbit Ride

8:00am|Fairhaven Bicycle

Community Breakfast

8:00am|American Legion Post #43

Rabbit Ride

8:30am|Fairhaven Bicycle

Getting in on the act


Sound of Music Singalong

1:00pm|Lincoln Theatre

A Musical Thanksgiving

2:00pm|McIntyre Hall

Harmony from Discord with Whatcom Symphony Orchestra

3:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre

The 25th Hour

4:00pm|Village Books

Southside Community Meal

5:00pm|Our Saviour's Lutheran Church

Way North Comedy Showcase

7:00pm|Farmstrong Brewing Co.

Rutie Dornfeld, John Miller

7:00pm|YWCA Ballroom

Kaeshammer Trove
Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am|Meridian Street

Wander + Camber Beer Dinner

6:30pm|Camber Cafe

Rocks & Gems

7:00pm|Bloedel Donovan Community Building


9:30pm|Green Frog

see our complete calendar »

Village Books Kaeshammer Trove Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Bellingham Farmer’s Market