Lesley Manville anchors cosy whodunnit Magpie Murders on BBC1

A very good editor has an eye fixed for element, a knack for readability and operates out of the highlight. The identical goes for detective. So when a bestselling creator of homicide mysteries dies in suspicious circumstances, it appears pure for his editor, Susan Ryeland, to guide an (unofficial) one-woman investigation.

That’s the premise of Magpie Murders, a comfy whodunnit and sharp-witted mystery-within-a-mystery based mostly on Anthony Horowitz’s novel of the identical title. Having aired on parochial streamer BritBox final yr, the six-part crowd-pleaser has now earned a well-deserved switch to the larger stage of BBC1.

The principle narrative thread follows Lesley Manville’s Susan, whose barely frazzled method belies a probing thoughts. Her mission isn’t just to resolve what occurred to Alan Conway (Conleth Hill) however — much more pressingly for her publishing home — to find the lacking last chapter of his final manuscript. As Susan snoops across the creator’s village in Suffolk, the present jumps between her sleuthing and dramatised scenes from Conway’s e book, wherein the detective, Atticus Pünd (Tim McMullan), examines the homicide of a roundly-despised nation property proprietor. The sufferer just isn’t in contrast to the creator — in reality, the general public that Susan meets additionally pop up as unflattering caricatures within the novel. Conway’s fiction, it appears, would possibly maintain the important thing to his demise.

The Russian doll narrative construction may be unwieldy however the collection is anchored by Manville’s sensible efficiency, which feels natural regardless of the assorted plot contrivances — not least the direct conversations with Pünd himself. In certainly one of these daydream exchanges, Manville deftly hints at her character’s instability as she muses in regards to the reassurance and closure that whodunits present.

However Magpie Murders typically retains issues mild and full of life, balancing meta-reflections on the style with good old style twists and turns. Let’s simply hope the ultimate episode doesn’t disappear in mysterious circumstances.


On BBC1 from April 1 at 9.15pm

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