I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
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.
Probably about 3.5 stars. I must confess I picked it up because it had a bird in the title and I’m a bird nerd. One small complaint: the bird featured on the dust jacket of the edition that I read was not a magpie.
A very clever mystery within a mystery. Solved by an editor. Obviously the author is a smart guy, writing something that is very much an homage to Agatha Christie inside his more literary novel. And I think that was very much the point--that divisions between “literature” and “genre fiction” are artificial and limiting. Good writing is good writing, no matter the genre. But I’ve heard this argument at writers’ conferences for years--genre is just a spot to shelve things in the bookstores.
I didn’t get as wrapped up in this novel as I expected. It probably has more to do with me than the novel, really, as I’ve got a lot going on right now. Still it was a good read and I wouldn’t discourage any interested parties from picking it up.