TV miniseries review: Magpie Murders (Britbox, 2022)
Based on a 2016 novel of the same name by Anthony Horowitz, Magpie Murders stars Susan Ryeland (Lesley Manville) as an editor for an independent publishing house. Her boss (Michael Maloney) wants her to take over the reins of the company, while her boyfriend (Alexandros Logothetis) wants to spend more time with her. Everything hinges on getting the latest Atticus Pünd novel to print.
Susan’s, and indeed the company’s, biggest client is murder mystery writer Alan Conway (Conleth Hill). He’s not the most pleasant of people to be around, it has to be said, but his post war-set German super sleuth Atticus Pünd (he’s very much a kind of Hercule Poirot type character) brings home the bacon. In fact, the latest manuscript has just been delivered, ready for editing.
Only problem is the manuscript is missing the last chapter.
And the author has been found dead.
What’s a poor book editor to do, but to try and locate the missing chapter … and maybe solve a mystery or two in the process.
One thing I really liked about this miniseries is how it shows both today’s real world and the 1950s world of the Atticus Pünd novel in question, so it’s a double whammy of a mystery. On the one hand, where’s the final chapter and did Conway really kill himself or did any of the many people with very good motives to do so murder him? On the other, who committed the murder in the whodunnit? Conway based a number of characters on people he knew, so there’s an overlap – e.g. Daniel Mays plays a real life police officer as well as a bumbling police officer in the book, Conway’s partner (Matthew Beard) is also Pünd’s hapless sidekick Fraser.
More interesting is that Atticus Pünd (Tim McMullan) appears not just in his own timeline, but he also appears around Susan, as if he was a real person. He helps her with the clues she’s gathering, pointing out little inconsistencies that she didn’t quite realise she noticed, and so on. Having full visual and auditory hallucinations of a fictional character she’s spent a lot of time with over the years doesn’t faze her in the slightest – she doesn’t even seem surprised that he shows up. There is a word for this very phenomenon (although being able to see them as a fully realised hallucination is rare), so I wonder if Horowitz might have experienced it for himself. Intriguing for sure.
The editing was tight, never a dull moment and we ended up binging the whole thing because we do love a good murder mystery in this house, and here we got two for the price of one. The characters were engaging, the plot twisty and interesting, and to top it all off it appears they will be adapting the second Susan Ryeland novel into a miniseries as well. Good times! Magpie Murders was a real pleasure to watch.
5 out of 5 traffic jams.