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Published: 02 September 2021 02 September 2021

Magpie by Elizabeth Day

Magpie is a very cleverly plotted, well-written psychological thriller where nothing is quite what it first seems. The book opens with one of the main female characters viewing a house where she and her new boyfriend are planning to live together and start a family. There is a sense that something is not quite right, but when the POV changes about a third of the way in, it takes the narrative in a totally different direction, rather than the obvious one I had been expecting.

I chose this book with no prior knowledge of what it was about, though I did recognise Elizabeth Day as one of the presenters of the excellent SkyArts book programme, and I think it helped to have an open mind. Magpie deals with some very difficult subjects with a lot of compassion; infertility, surrogacy, mental illness, toxic family relationships, to name but a few, are all woven seamlessly into the tense and unsettling narrative.

The story is told from the points of view of Marisa and Kate, neither of whom are reliable narrators, but I would have like some input from Jake as well. He remained less well defined as we only saw him through the eyes of others. The characters are well drawn, believable and memorable, though none of them are particularly likeable. The ending did seem a bit too neat considering how chaotic the rest of the book had been, but this is a minor criticism. I enjoyed Magpie and will be on the lookout for other books by Elizabeth Day. Thanks to Fourth Estate and NetGalley for a digital copy to review.