A pair of hair-raising whodunits aimed at bibliophiles are worthy of a top place on your summertime reading list.
Magpie Murders by screenwriter and bestselling author Anthony Horowitz (Moriarty) is a wickedly clever Agatha Christie-style novel within a novel. As editor Susan Ryeland reads through the manuscript for the ninth novel from her publishing house’s bestselling author, Alan Conway, she finds that his Magpie Murders is a crisp murder mystery set in the bucolic English village of Saxby-on-Avon, a town filled with Georgian stone homes and terraces, where you “didn’t need to read Jane Austen. If you stepped outside, you would find yourself actually in her world.”
In Conway’s story, local cleaning lady Mary Elizabeth Blakiston and the wealthy man she works for, Sir Magnus Pye, have both been killed inside Pye Hall. There is no shortage of suspects: Could it have been Pye’s sister who was cut out of the family fortune? The vicar who stands to lose his lovely view when Pye sells off his land for the construction of a cookie-cutter housing development? The son of the cleaning lady who was heard shouting at his mother just before her death? Conway’s brilliant London detective, Atticus Pünd, comes to the secretive town of Saxby-on-Avon for what might be his last investigation.
But the final chapters of the Magpie Murders manuscript are missing, and Conway is now out of the picture in a very unexpected way. Susan comes to suspect that the fictional manuscript holds a darker, real-life story. As life imitates art, Susan becomes a detective of sorts as she begins to interview Conway’s associates in order to piece together what really happened to him and discover where those lost chapters are hidden. Magpie Murders is brilliantly constructed, a thoroughly satisfying read that left me dazzled.
In Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore, first-time author Matthew Sullivan creates a vivid world inside Denver’s Bright Ideas Bookstore, where 30-year-old Lydia Smith works and nurtures the store’s “BookFrogs,” damaged men who spend their days wandering the cozy aisles.
When one of the youngest BookFrogs, Joey Molina, hangs himself inside the store, it is Lydia who finds him. Joey leaves Lydia a set of books that contain coded messages within their pages. The discovery cracks open a long-held secret from her youth—the fact that she famously survived a brutal triple-murder while at a sleepover—and Lydia begins to unravel a horrifying connection between Joey and her traumatic past.
Sullivan, a former bookseller himself, weaves an intense, unsettling story. Joey is an enigmatic character, “haunted but harmless—a dust bunny blowing through the corners of the store.” And the flashbacks to that fateful night from Lydia’s childhood, narrated by her father, literally had me reminding myself to breathe.
Twisty and dark, Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore is a remarkable debut novel that will leave readers unsettled and probably yearning to pay a visit to their local bookstore.