Mystery within a mystery

Published date25 October 2022
Publication titleSignal
Before the streaming warriors mined the world for content, British television made its way into the American living room almost exclusively by way of Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and its affiliates. Masterpiece Theatre was the network’s home for literary adaptations and classy historical dramas, and Mystery! the place for the ... mysteries

Those venues now share prime time as Masterpiece and ‘‘Masterpiece Mystery!’’ whose latest presentation, released recently, is Magpie Murders, adapted by Anthony Horowitz (Midsomer Murders), from his own 2016 novel. It’s a tightly plotted, handsomely presented, smartly acted, entirely enjoyable and structurally unusual piece — a mystery centred on a mystery novel, two stories enacted in parallel in alternating and rhyming scenes, that between them, over the course of six episodes, give you practically everything you come to British mysteries for.

An English village (times two). A baronial mansion (times two). A victim many people would be happy to see dead (times two).

Lesley Manville plays Susan Ryeland, an editor at a small publishing house whose cash cow is Alan Conway (Conleth Hill), a globally successful author of mystery novels set in the 1950s that feature a courtly private detective and German refugee named Atticus Pund (Tim McMullan). Conway’s eight books and the ninth he has just delivered — also called Magpie Murders — are driving an impending sale of the company by publisher Charles Clover (Michael Maloney) to a bigger company; the publication of the new book, we are repeatedly told, is also all that keeps the company from potential ruin.


To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT