Witty heroine, bland book

A Murder of Magpies - Judith Flanders

I received this ARC from the publisher through Netgalley.


An average cozy mystery, this book features an unusual protagonist—a book editor. Sam’s main concern at the beginning of the novel is the latest manuscript of her star writer. Then another of her writers, a fashion journalist with a penchant of digging dirt on high couture, goes missing, and she decides to investigate. Or rather to ask questions in places the police wouldn’t go.

Despite the engaging premise, the story was slow and a bit dull, without the absorbing qualities of the best books in the genre. Every bit of praise I can give this book is tempered by a ‘but.’

The mystery was interesting, with an unconventional and unexpected solution, but the narration leading up to the unmasking of the villain(s) was too full of mind-numbing legalese and corporate finances, and the main proof of guilt too flimsy to be real. The author used to write non-fiction; her attention to details is scrupulous, but it made the text vaguely boring.

The protagonist Sam was a fascinating character, a bit grumpy, forty-year-old publishing professional, with no illusions about life and literature and a sardonic attitude, but the rest of the characters were placeholders.

The author introduced a romance in her plot, which should’ve spiced up the tale, but there was no built-up, no attraction, no improper urges of Sam’s part. No spice. One day she meets a guy. A few days later, she jumps in bed with him. After that, they seem to become a couple.

The writing was reasonably clean. A few glitches in spelling and grammar could be explained by its being an uncorrected proof. On the other hand, humor sparkling in Sam’s sarcastic musings and witty dialogs was what saved this book from being totally blah.

A few quotes below demonstrate Sam’s saucy side.


In all the books I’d ever read, Our Hero is brutally assaulted, tied up for seventy-two hours, frequently being hung by his ankles in the process. When he frees himself by gnawing through the ropes, he stops only for a quick drink and then charges straight off after the villains. Another cherished illusion gone. It was plain to me now that what Our Hero would really do was lie in bed and moan gently.


In the real world, no one kidnaps academics or journalists because no one wants them. It’s hard enough to get rid of them after dinner.


The last refuge of the intelligentsia: when real life gets too difficult, go find something to read.


I was going to burgle someone’s office because my mother told me to. I wondered if the judge would consider that a mitigating circumstance.  


On the whole, it was a solid cozy with a blunt but kind-hearted heroine.