book adjacent, book related

Book adjacent: Magpie Murders

Something a bit different today – and I’ve been watching the TV adaptation of Anthony Horowitz’s novel Magpie Murders. I read the book back when it first came out and I really enjoyed it – but had no idea how they would manage to turn it into a TV series, so I got myself a Britbox subscription especially to watch it!

In case you haven’t read the book, a reminder of the plot: Susan Ryeland has been editing the Atticus Pünd novels for years. The series’s author, Alan Conway is not her favourite person, but she puts up with him because the series has been incredibly popular with fans of the Queens of Crime. But when she reads the latest manuscript, not only is the end missing, but she’s convinced that Conway has hidden another story within his new novel.

Now, what the book blurb doesn’t tell you, but the TV trailer does, is that Alan Conway ends up dead and that as she searches for the missing chapter, she’s also trying to figure out who killed him. I had no clue how they were going to make this work on screen because of the book-within-a-book nature of the story but it really clicks – with cast doubling their roles and different filters on the camera to make it even easier to tell the two apart – as well as the different costumes for the different time periods. I was a bit sceptical about whether the adaptation really needed six parts but it turns out that it sort of did – because there is a lot of plot with two parallel mysteries to a solve and not a lot to cut. Anthony Horowitz has adapted this himself from his novel -and it really works. As you can see from the trailer, a lot of the cast play two roles – the real people who knew Alan and their fictional equivalents in the book.

There are a lot of familiar faces in the cast and the performances are great. Lesley Manville makes a great Susan – tenacious about trying to find the missing chapter of the book, but guarded and prickly about her personal life. I’m not a Game of Thrones viewer, so I’m not sure I’d seen Conleth Hill in anything before I saw him in Holding, and then here he is again in this turning in another great – but very different – performance. I really hope they do the second in the series, The Moonflower Murders, and I also really hope that Horowitz writes a third. He does have two meta-murder mystery series though, and he seems to be doing more with the Hawthorne books – which is even more meta as a fictional version of Horowitz is in that one. I really can’t imagine how they would do a TV version of that. But I said that with the Atticus Pund series, so what do I know! There is a fourth Hawthorne book coming this summer which I’m already looking forward to reading.

As I said at the top, this one is on Britbox, which you can get direct from them or as an add-on to an Amazon Prime subscription. You get a seven days free trial, and there are a couple of other Britbox originals that I fancy having a look at, so I’ve gone beyond the trial for now!

Enjoy.

book adjacent, not a book

Not a Book: Holding

I mean, it was a book first, but in this case it’s the TV adaptation I’m talking about!

So this is ITV’s four part adaptation of Graham Norton’s debut novel. I have to admit that I started but never finished the book, and I don’t know where it’s gone – but I really enjoyed the TV version of this murder mystery, which is just a little bit unexpected and out of the ordinary.

The plot is this: when a body is discovered Siri building work, local police officer PJ has his first murder to solve. The victim turns out to be a long lost local legend – who disappeared the day of his wedding. Introverted and seen as an outsider by the village, PJ discovers hidden secrets as he tries to solve the crime and this is what finally forms a connection with the community.

Everyone in this has a messy life. There are alcoholics, secret affairs, unhappy marriages, busybodies, secret eaters and more. And at times it’s really quite bleak. But for all that there was something totally watchable about it – and I put that down to Conleth Hill’s performance as PJ Collins. Even when he’s doing something he really shouldn’t, you’re still rooting for him and you’re desperate for him to solve the murder and be happy. As the episodes go on, you discover hidden depths to him and the scenes with Mrs Meany (Brenda Fricker) are brilliant. It doesn’t feel like a traditional murder mystery when you’re watching it – whether that’s because you know a lot more than PJ does or because of the way it’s been directed by Kathy Burke, I don’t know. But it felt different and fresh and touching.

As I said at the top, I haven’t read the book – and as I already have way too many books I’m not sure I’ll be going back for it, but if a copy happens into my hands, I’d be interested to see how much of the tone is carried over from the book and how much is from the adaptation.

Anyway, if you’re interested, it’s up on the ITV hub if you’re in the UK, and I think it’s somewhere on Virgin if you’re in Ireland. I have no idea about the rest of the world though – sorry!