I came across Magpie Murders in a list of modern metafiction. For whatever reason, I was craving a taste of early-20s-me’s favorite genre, and came across a book about the author of a book, with a near-traditional Russian nesting doll of narratives packed inside. First we meet an agent, who has the last book from a mystery author who’s recently died, then we read the mystery book in question, before returning to the “real world” mystery, which is “what happened to the author and where the heck is the rest of the book,” and as the two books play off each other, the real story slowly unwinds. It’s expertly told and and the mystery’s conclusion is truly surprising, however I can’t help but think there is one major problem with the entire conceit of the book.
About midway through Magpie Murders, you get to the second-to-last chapter of the fake book inside. It turns out, the last chapter is missing, and the rest of the “real” book is spent with the author’s agent seeking out that last chapter. The idea here is that you can’t publish a book without an ending. In 2018, I feel like that’s actually a selling point. The author died and while the entire mystery story is here, we don’t have the CONCLUSION–that part in mystery novels where the detective goes through and talks to every single suspect before naming the killer. So, instead, fans have to figure it out. Do you know how the internet works? Within days there would be hundreds of fan theories all over Reddit. This is HBO level here, and honestly would have likely been a better marketing tactic than just being the final book from an author.