Saturday, 3 September 2016

Magpie Murders.

When I was a young catholic growing up in Belfast I often found myself struggling with the vagueness of my birth assigned faith. Especially the complex traditions that went along with established forms of worship, in the mass.For instance before a reading from a gospel it would state that it was an extract from a letter by Saint Paul to the Corinthians or Saint Conan to the Cimmerians. To my young uneducated mind I would ask myself; "Who writes a letter to a whole people?" or"what was the postal address or is there a PO box ?"It seemed such hubris and even a little delusional. Do you begin such a letter "Dear Romans" or "My Dear Samaritans".?
               I had a similar feeling whilst reading this new book by the always entertaining Anthony Horowitz . Had he in fact written a letter, a love letter to be more precise, to a whole form, a whole genre? If so, if this is what he intended then I for one think he pretty much succeeded. The genre in question being the great british murder mystery. Although, and if it is not stretching the metaphor too far, his cupids arrow has gone right into the targets heart and feels like a killing blow. It does not off course. Not beyond the narrative but a clever literary murder does take place. In actual and fictional terms, In a story wrapped within an unfinished manuscript with a series of clues hidden in plain sight.
There is so much to like in this book and it really does work well on a couple of different levels. The atticus Pond "fictional" bit is really rather good and all the behind the scenes stuff about the book trade are just as interesting. He makes some very telling and up to the moment actual cultural references(Including his own baby Midsummer Murders.) and he is none too flattering about the portrait of the successful but difficult writer who goes off the top of the building. I do not believe it to be parody or even biographical but it does have the ring of truth about it. A memory or perhaps an obsevation he has translated into "fiction".
                Who knows, writers are by nature such magpies..
                                                    One For Sorrow,
                                                    Two For Joy,
                                                   Three For A Girl,
                                                     Four For A Boy,
                                                     Five For Silver,
                                                     Six For Gold,
                                       Seven For A Secret Never To Be Told.
It is a children's rhyme off course and Agatha Christie, among others, has used the form to bookend or drive forward a narrative. It could be something to do with the downcast pathos of many such rhymes or the terrifying child like logic of cautionary tales passed on as children's poems. The wisdom and hard earned virtue concealed behind much pedantic prose. He also uses  chapter headings in a clever and entertaining way, little Easter eggs of information and occasional red herrings. Nicely wrapped but smelling of fish all the same. My favourite example is Agatha Christie using William Blake for Endless Night. One of my very favourites by her.
             He adapts styles for the different voices as the story and mystery deepens. In one switch of tone he becomes surprisingly unpleasant and reminded me of a certain speaking voice of a well know writer and pop cultural commentator. And blow me if it did not turn out to be the very reason!I really enjoyed the dipping in and out of "Realities" the tension generated by where the "writer" takes us
with his series of novels.
              Murder he wrote and he makes a killing.