I've just been listening to Anthony Horowitz's new novel on Audible (superbly read by Samantha Bond and Alan Corduner) and it gave me many hours of great pleasure. Horowitz has been writing for forty years and has worked in many different genres from young adult (the Alex Ryder series) to pastiches of Conan Doyle and Ian Fleming to film and TV scripts. But he's never done anything quite like this before.
Magpie Murders is a novel within a novel, so you really get two for the price of one. The story starts with Susan Ryeland, an editor for a firm of publishers, reading the latest manuscript sent in by one of their best selling authors, Alan Conway. This is the seventh in his highly successful 'Atticus Pünd' series of classic detective novels. Before long we get a chance to read the novel for ourselves, in its entirety (or almost, as it turns out). Set in an English country village in the 1950s, this is all very Agatha Christie, with Pünt, a German emigré, standing in for Poirot. This pastiche is very well done, and could have been a standalone novel - but here, when Susan is nearly at the end, she discovers that the final chapters are missing.
The narrative then switches back to Susan's world, in which we discover that Conway has been found dead at the foot of the tower in his stately home. Initially this is thought to be suicide, and a letter from the author himself seems to confirm it. But Susan becomes convinced that he was murdered, and starts an investigation of her own. She is dedicated to her job for Cloverleaf Books and fears for the future of the firm if Magpie Murders cannot be published. When she finally gets to the bottom of the mystery, which is closely tied up with those missing chapters, her own life is put in great danger. That mystery solved, we get to read the conclusion of Atticus Pünd's story.
The novel is very clever and entertaining, and made more so by the brilliantly ingenious use of anagrams, word play, codes and other verbal tricks with which it turns out Conway has peppered his books. Altogether a witty and intelligent piece of fun, with just the right amount of suspense in both stories to keep the most demanding crime reader happy. Great stuff.