Magpie by Sophie Draper #BookReview #BlogTour

Claire lives with her family in a beautiful glass house overlooking the water. But she feels as if she’s married to a stranger – one who is leading a double life. As soon as she can get their son Joe away from him, she’s determined to leave Duncan.

But finding out the truth about Duncan’s secret life leads to consequences Claire never planned for. Now Joe is missing, and she’s struggling to piece together the events of the night that tore them all apart.

Alone in an isolated cottage, hiding from Duncan, Claire tries to unravel the lies they’ve told each other, and themselves. Something happened to her family … But can she face the truth?

A dark psychological thriller with a twist – perfect for fans of Ruth Ware and C. J. Tudor.

It’s my pleasure to be hosting the blog tour for Magpie today. Many thanks to Sophie Draper and Avon Books for inviting me and for my advance copy of the novel, received through Netgalley.

Magpie is described as a dark psychological thriller and while it’s true that the main characters becomes increasingly unstable as the novel progresses, the atmospheric Derbyshire countryside and the inclement weather - rain, snow and a thick, eerie fog - alongside certain other creepy elements mean there is a definite Gothic feeling to the book too.
This is the story of a the death throes of a marriage; Claire and Duncan shouldn’t be together anymore, any love that still remains between them has become tainted by words both said and unsaid. Now their complicated son, Joe is eighteen, Claire is planning to leave her husband but the book’s dual timeline soon makes it clear that something important occurred around the time she informed Duncan of her decision. The storyline isn’t a straightforward one to follow but the chapters are helpfully entitled as Claire - Before, Claire - After or Duncan - After and so it didn’t take me too long to adjust to the rhythm of the novel.
As the main narrator, Claire is certainly the more sympathetic of the pair. They met at vet school and married immediately after university but while Duncan has developed a successful veterinary practice, her career has stalled. Right from the start it is suggested that Duncan is at least partially responsible for controlling the way her life has turned out and that she resents him for it. However, she is also a devoted mother to Joe who although never given a label, doesn’t really fit in and displays   behavioural traits commonly associated with ASD. As a baby and toddler he screamed if he couldn’t see her and childminders were unable to cope with his needs then his school years were obviously troubled, with neither his teachers nor his peers ever really taking the time to try and understand him. He also seems to be a disappointment to his father and so Claire has become his sole advocate, understandably putting his needs before her own.
Joe has an obsession with ancient coins and spends hours with a metal detector, hoping to unearth a significant hoard of Roman coins. When he comes across an exciting find on his family’s land, he is desperately worried that others will descend on the area, determined to discover the hoard before he is able to. He begs his mother to tell nobody, not even Duncan but it becomes apparent that Claire has more pressing concerns than the presence - or otherwise - of ancient coins. The chapters set in the after sections of the book imply that the coin may be connected to Joe’s disappearance but could there be another reason why Claire hasn’t seen him for six weeks?
Duncan is much more difficult to like but there are glimpses of a more caring man, particularly in his dealings with the animals he treats. He is obviously a very good vet and his strong belief in animal welfare is underlined by his angry refusal to euthanase an elderly dog who has a still treatable condition. Later in the novel both Claire and Duncan appear to become ever more irrational and there is one particular scene in the veterinary surgery which demonstrates just how unpredictable he has become, shocking colleagues and onlookers with his behaviour.
Claire’s frantic, uncertain search for the missing Joe is easy to empathise with but there are also repeated mentions of something seemingly awful happening years ago, something Claire still feels guilty about. The police make a gruesome discovery on their land and as the storyline continuously swaps between the near past and present, it becomes impossible to guess what each of them has done, causing them to become these tragic individuals haunted by some terrible shared event.
I immediately associated the title of the book to the reputation of magpies as treasure seekers but there is also another very clever reason for Sophie Draper to have chosen to have called her engrossing, emotional story, Magpie. The well-known rhyme about the birds features a few times but it’s not until later that I recognised the true significance of the words. I suspect that this book won’t appeal to those who prefer a more direct, linear timeline but I really enjoyed it. Magpie is a beautifully crafted, rather poignant novel which rewards its readers with a chillingly suspenseful and surprising tale which is perfect to read on a dark winter's evening. Highly recommended.

Magpie is published by Avon Books, purchasing links can be found here.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author

Sophie Draper won the Bath Novel Award 2017 with this novel. She has also won the Friday Night Live competition at the York Festival of Writing 2017. She lives in Derbyshire, where the book is set, and under the name Sophie Snell she works as a traditional oral storyteller.