Magpie Murders – Double Troubles

If anyone could be expected to play well with the murder mystery genre, it would be Anthony Horowitz, novelist and screenwriter for the likes of Foyle’s War and Midsomer Murders, not to mention (though of course I am doing just that) eleven episodes of Agatha Christie’s Poirot. And play with the genre is precisely what Horowitz does with the Magpie Murders. In The Elements of Mystery Fiction, William Tapply provides budding mystery writers with a list of no-nos—the not so obvious pitfalls of poor detective fiction. Horowitz might have read and certainly must have enjoyed tinkering with nearly each of Tapply’s taboos.  Continue reading

A Bucket of Books


A fellow blogger suggested putting together a ‘bucket list’ of books we need to read before—well, in my case, before the end of summer. My collection is a bit eclectic, and the choices I’ve made were sometimes impulsive, not necessarily with a great deal of forethought. Take Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz, for example. I bought this on the first day of its release (June 6, 2017) mostly because I loved the cover and only then did I pay attention to the author, who just so happens to be the writer responsible for many of my favorite Midsomer Murders episodes, and only then did I read the first chapter and decide it was going to be time well spent reading. And how was I to pass up a title like Tova Reich’s One Hundred Philistine ForeskinsThis tantalizing satire was passed along to me by a good friend; caveat though to those unfamiliar with the alternative universe of orthodox Judaism, you might want to find someone who is or keep Google open to look up unfamiliar terms. Continue reading

The Usual Suspects

Mysteries have long been a favorite genre of mine. Beginning with Agatha Christie and Dick Frances as a teenager, I became an early addict to these compelling reads. Decades later I am still hooked. Recently, I moved to the Pacific Northwest where finding a reading group is as simple as a trip to one of the many (still) independent book sellers that thrive in our neighborhoods. “The Usual Suspects” is one such group that I have joined, sponsored by the local branch of the University of Washington bookstore . We are a new group, on our fifth mystery novel, and speaking for myself, having a grand old time talking about our passion.

This month’s read was Donna Leon’s first Comissario Guido Brunetti mystery, Death at La Fenice (1992). Though I understand it is difficult to classify mystery writing, I think Guy Magar’s categories (and their historical derivation) are helpful: Private Detective Stories, The Cozy Mystery, Historical Mysteries, Police Procedurals, Legal Thrillers, and the necessary other, “everything else”. Death at La Fenice would fall into the Historical category first – it is set in Venice during the 1950s – and perhaps police procedural second (though as one of our members pointed out, the story is a bit short on actual police procedure), and third, the means of death might earn this story a place in the “Cozy” section of the bookshelf. I don’t want to have to issue a SPOILER ALERT here, but another of our members with a doctorate in pharmacology provided us with a quick lesson on the offending substance that makes a star appearance in Brunetti’s case.

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