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Oct 31, 2017 12:34PM

Great British Whodunits

By Michael G. Harris, OD

If you're like me, you're a big fan of British whodunits. These are classic murder mysteries where the reader must also play detective and doesn't learn who the killer is until the very end of the book. A good British whodunit also includes a clever detective or narrator. Think of Agatha Christie and Murder on the Orient Express or The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.

Anthony Horowitz’s Magpie Murders certainly fits the bill. It even features a classic detective named Atticus Pund, who will remind you of Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot. And, as a bonus, you actually get two mysteries in one.

Horowitz wanted Magpie Murders to be more than “just a murder mystery story." He wanted it to be a "a treatise on the whole genre of murder mystery writing: how the writers come up with the ideas; how these books are formed. (He) didn't just want people to have the fun and the pleasure of 'Oh, it was the doctor' ... on the final page. (He) wanted there to be something a little bit more." And that's what he's done with this mystery within a mystery.

The book’s narrator, Susan Ryeland, is the editor for a highly successful fictional crime novelist named Alan Conway. His latest manuscript, also titled Magpie Murders, seems like his previous successful thrillers. It’s 1955 and the housekeeper at Pye House, a mansion in a charming English village, has suffered what appears to be an accidental death. The "plot thickens" when the owner of Pye House is murdered two weeks later and detective Atticus Pund is called on to investigate his murder. Are these two deaths related?

Now the book takes another twist. Ryeland discovers that Conway's book is missing several chapters and doesn't reveal who the murderer was. To complicate things further, Ryeland’s boss has discovered a suicide note supposedly written by Conway before his death. But why would Conway kill himself? Could the missing chapters be a clue to Conway's death? What’s in those missing pages and why would someone try to hide them? Is Ryeland's life now in danger? You will have to wait to the end of this book to learn the truth, but it's worth it.

Author Ruth Ware really caught my attention with her bestseller The Woman in Cabin 10, one of the best thrillers I've read in years. So, I was anxious to read her latest novel, The Lying Game, when it came out this summer. It's the story of four old school friends who practice “the lying game” once too often. “The rules are simple: 1. Tell a lie. 2. Stick to your story. 3. And never, ever get caught…” Isa, Fatima, Thea, and Kate become best friends at boarding school where they start playing the lying game, and each tries to outdo the others with the most outrageous lies. Some 15 years later, Kate, who still lives at the Old Mill near the boarding school, sends the other three an urgent text they hoped they would never get: "I need you.” With that, the three rush to meet Kate only to be drawn into an old mystery and a new one.

The story, narrated by Isa, centers on the discovery of an old bone and the apparent suicide of Kate’s father, an art instructor at the boarding school. The

mystery intensifies and takes numerous twists and turns as the friends try to unravel the truth behind the suicide note. The other characters in the story only add to the mystery of what happened. This is a real “page turner” that would have made Agatha Christie proud.


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