"The Magpies" Mark Edwards
THE MAGPIES is a terrifying psychological thriller in which the monsters are not vampires or demons but the people we live next door to. It is a nightmare that could happen to anyone.
The fantastic Elizabeth Haynes, psychological thriller writer extraordinaire, recommended Mark Edwards on Twitter and I could not help but push all my other pending reads aside to investigate what kind of writer can give a master crime author the chills! I was delighted to find this in my local library and couldn't wait to get stuck in!
The story is about Jamie and Kirsty; a young, happy, deeply in love couple who have just bought their first flat. The neighbours all seem very friendly, particularly the couple who live below them in the "garden" (not Basement!) flat. But things soon change. Unwanted mail arrives, unpleasant "gifts" are left on the doormat, strange noises and music is played at unsociable hours, complaints are made and suddenly Jamie and Kirsty seem to be the victim of something deeply disturbing. ......
I had no preconceptions about this book and didn't really know what to expect. I started it on Sunday afternoon and it was so easy to read that I became very absorbed with the characters quickly. The writing moves along at a good pace- enough detail and dialogue to create some depth to the characters and a clear sense of setting (which is very important as nearly all the action takes place within the building and the couple's flat) but rapidly introducing the full cast of characters, their interaction and delving straight into the story.
At first Kirsty and Jamie are a little bit much - so deeply in love and pleased with their new home but I suppose this exaggerates their harmlessness and innocent, inoffensive natures. It also exaggerates the transformation that each character undergoes as a result of the horrible events they are exposed to. They are very close and very comfortable with each other - another thing which is threatened by the fear that they are being watched and targeted without any reason.
I really enjoyed this book. I was pulled along by the narrative. I was intrigued by the characters. I was chilled by the events and some of the things that happen to Jamie and Kirsty really made my flesh crawl. We all have neighbours and we have all probably (and sadly) had bad experiences with neighbours which is what makes the thrill of this book so palpable and gripping. We used to live above a couple who sounded like they were dragging dead bodies and heavy furniture across the floor every night at about 1am - and we've all had a that eerie sense that someone has been through our things without our permission or overheard things they shouldn't have. As Jamie and Kirsty show us, our home should be our sanctuary, our safe place....where we can shut the door and stop the outside world from following us in.... What happens when it isn't? There is nothing more violating and Kirsty's resulting grief and vulnerability from all this is really well depicted by Edwards.
I also liked how quickly things spiral out of control. In the same way that "Gone Girl" showed the lengths people will go to get what they want, so here too. The planning and "coincidences" quickly entrap Jamie and Kirsty, infiltrating every aspect of their lives, setting off a ripple of repercussions that escalade uncontrollably like dominos.
This read like a really good Friday night film. I couldn't turn it off to go and get a drink of water I was so haunted by the menacing atmosphere and some of the events are really shocking. There are some twists and shocks but actually, this is a novel that simply tells a story of the events as they happen. The ending is not necessarily a resolution in the traditional sense but it is satisfying and you're attention will not waiver until the final sentence and then - if you're anything like me - you will be searching Edward's back catalogue to find out what else he has written (answer: lots! Hurrah!)
I liked this book because it was a well told, enjoyable, quick read. There are a few things which irked a little or that I might have wanted to see in more detail but I totally could see why Edwards had made these choices and what he was trying to achieve. I also liked the fact that this was quite "ordinary". "Ordinary" people, "ordinary" place, no hidden, deeply buried pasts for the loving couple to uncover about each other....there is violence but it is not graphic or overly gratuitous. It's just a solid story. Easy to read, easy to relate to, easy to get utterly caught up in and easy to be unnerved by! It is a story of things that could happen to any of us which is always appealing and Edwards has struck a perfect balance of shock, mystery, fear and foreboding.
Ps: Thought the title was very apt and clever! Also liked the "letter from the Author" at the end - great for clarification, general interest and discussion!
I would recommend this book, particularly for if you are looking for a quick, engaging and dramatic read. I am looking forward to reading more from Mark Edwards and would like to thank Elizabeth Haynes for introducing me to him!
If you like this sound of this story, here are a few other titles you might enjoy (all reviewed on this blog site). It seems the words "Next Door" are the new "Gone Girl" of "Grip Lit"!!