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Brokaw: ‘Magpie Murders’ brings mystery novel to the small screen

By Francine Brokaw - Special to the Daily Herald | Nov 16, 2022

Courtesy photo

"Magpie Murders" is streaming now on Prime Video.

Anthony Horowitz penned his mystery novel “Magpie Murders” in 2016. This mystery within a mystery quickly captured the imaginations of readers. And now PBS is bringing it to viewers in a six-part series.

The plot is split between two time periods. In the early time, fictional detective Atticus Pund is attempting to solve a murder. The newest time period has mystery writer Alan Conway, penning his Atticus Pund novel. If this sounds confusing, it’s really not.

During a virtual press conference, Horowitz discussed his work and praised actor Tim McMullan for his portrayal of Pund.

“I did my very best to make Atticus Pünd different from other detectives, so of course there are people who come to mind. Sherlock Holmes is one. Hercule Poirot, the detective as the outsider. But I think what makes him interesting is that he has a real background. He’s a victim of the Second World War. He’s been in a labor camp. He is Greek, Jewish, a mixed-blood outsider, and in Tim’s hands I think he is the sort of detective who stands alone and the sort of detective you haven’t actually really seen,” Horowitz said.

The author went on to explain how the different times will look for viewers.

“A 650-page book with two time zones set in both of present day and in the 1950s in the real world and in fiction with characters that double up so they can walk down the stairs in their 21st century guise and exit the door suddenly back into the 1950s, the problem was how to make this very, very complex and challenging book a real easy ride and fun for the audience,” he said.

Horowitz has penned several mystery novels, several of which have the potential to become shows of their own. “I’m fascinated by writers,” Horowitz said. “Arthur Conan Doyle created Sherlock Holmes, the greatest detective who ever lived, and dislikes him so much and feels he’s so far beneath him that he throws him off a waterfall at the Reichenbach Falls. Ian Fleming creates James Bond and talks about him as being children’s fiction, and sort of kiss-kiss and bang-bang, and somewhat has a slight contempt for him. I find that fascinating in writers who create great characters and then feel that they’re somehow beneath them.”

“Magpie Murders” is an interesting look at a writer’s mind. It is also a look inside the publishing world, as the search is soon on for the final chapter of Conway’s latest novel. Where is it? And what does it reveal? This is a mystery within a mystery.

The series began airing Oct. 16 on PBS. It is available to stream on Prime Video.

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