Every season, GBH Drama prepares to bring you coverage of the latest and greatest in British dramas. This month, we’re getting a brand new show from MASTERPIECE: Magpie Murders. Featuring a mystery within a mystery and some truly delightful acting, this series is sure to be your new favorite whodunit. GBH Drama contributor Amanda-Rae Prescott is here to recap the magic as it happens.
This week on Magpie Murders, Susan explores the possibility that Alan was indeed murdered to cover up something printed in the final chapter of his manuscript. Her info gathering leads to a new possible motive: a secret Alan left behind before his death. Inside the world of the manuscript, Pünd has new information on Sir Magnus’ life. Let’s talk about what Susan and Pünd found.
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Susan’s Real Job
The episode begins with a flashback to what was likely the last time Susan had direct contact with Alan. Susan explains to him that he doesn’t need a long flashback to explain Pünd’s backstory in a Nazi prison camp. Alan wants Susan fired as his editor, but we all know that didn’t happen.
Susan and her boss attend a meeting about the impending merger. They report that “Magpie Murders” is in progress but of course, don’t reveal the missing chapter. The corporate folks are insisting on announcing the deal but Susan tells them she hasn’t made up her mind yet. We all know Susan isn’t going to make up her mind until she finds that missing chapter.
After the meeting, Susan tells her boss that she didn’t find any notes or early drafts in Alan’s house. He tells her that the house’s name was lifted from Agatha Christie. He also recounts the story of the last dinner he had with Alan. We find out that the restaurant requires a membership to eat there and that Alan had a few glasses of wine and champagne before the argument about the manuscript’s title caused the waiter to drop the plates. Susan wasn’t officially invited to Alan’s funeral, but she and her boss agree to meet up to go together.
Pünd and James’ first stop is to speak to Robert and Joy. Robert is still salty that Pünd didn’t come to investigate the village gossip but agrees to cooperate now that Sir Magnus is dead. Robert says that Mary worshiped Sir Magnus because he sponsored Robert’s education and connected him with his current job at the garage. We find out Robert’s father left Mary high and dry. There is then a flashback to Robert as a kid with his brother Sam. The one thing Robert refuses to tell Pünd about is the accident that caused Sam’s death, since the story is painful and likely not connected to the recent murders. Robert also says that his mother constantly nagged him, leading to that village rumor in the first place.
Joy reveals that Mary was initially nice to her but turned very nasty the second Robert said they were engaged and getting married in the near future. There is a flashback to Mary saying something horribly racist about interracial couples, and threatening to stop the marriage. Pünd and James are taken aback by this blatant prejudice but many viewers expected that that was the real issue. After the interview, Joy tells Robert he should have mentioned Sam’s death.
The village antique store is the next stop for Pünd and James: tracing the jewelry stolen from the manor will likely lead to the killer. There are some fancy brooches on display in the window which look much too nice for the rest of the surroundings. The owner, Mr. Whiteley, says he can’t reveal who gave him the silver as people are often hush-hush about financial trouble. Mrs. Whiteley claims the silver came from a flea market. The investigators leave convinced of the Whiteley’s stupidity in displaying stolen goods. It’s starting to look like the burglary was a distraction for the murder, because real thieves would have sold the silver to a shop miles away from the scene of the crime.
After the antique store, the gardener finally tells his side of the story. Sir Magnus blamed him for failing to stop the robbery so he was fired before the murder. He wasn’t there because he lives in the village. He also claimed that Mary and Sir Magnus were “lovey-dovey” but he rarely interacted with Mary.
Back in the real world, Andreas comes over to Susan’s house. Susan tells him that Khan the solicitor didn’t have the papers, which she thinks were clearly stolen to conceal whatever secret was inside. She also says Claire lied to her about not seeing the manuscript before Alan died. Andreas then tells her his cousin officially brought the hotel and that he has given his notice to the school. Susan tells Andreas that she is not following him to Crete.
After Andreas leaves, Susan has another conversation with Pünd’s apparition. She finds relationships much harder to maintain than the logic of storytelling. Susan has reread the manuscript and wonders why there is only a single mention of Sir Magnus’ former maid Ms. Darnley being dismissed from service. Pünd tells Susan that the details of the manuscript are not as important as why Alan wrote them in the first place.
Susan goes to the fancy restaurant to find the waiter who dropped the dishes. Lee Jaffery is an unpublished writer who has written four whodunits, just like Alan. He first met Alan at a writer’s workshop. He claims that not only was Alan rude to him, but he also stole the idea for “Magpie Murders” from Jaffery’s unpublished workshop assignments. In Jaffery’s novel “The Slide” the squire was also beheaded, the old nursery rhyme is mentioned, and the killer was the squire’s wife, who did it because she wanted to marry her tennis coach jumpoff. Jaffery said that he emailed Susan’s colleague Jemima about the plagiarism claim, but she never responded. Susan heads back to the office to investigate, only to find out Jemima quit because she found a new job. Jemima also claims that there weren’t any errors in copying Alan’s manuscript. Susan’s boss doesn’t take the new plagiarism claim seriously, but she is convinced this has to be a potential motive. Jaffery also knew where Alan lived, so he’s added to the suspect list.
Back in the 1950s, we see Lady Pye yelling at Sir Magnus about his philandering. Mary’s predecessor Ms. Darnley was clearly pregnant with Sir Magnus’ child and he covered that up. Lady Pye is so fed up that she slaps him and then says she would stab him if she could at that moment.
Meanwhile, during the search for information on the manuscript, Susan is also avoiding multiple calls from Katie throughout the episode. Susan finally answers a Facetime call and her sister says that their Dad had a stroke. Katie tells Susan he keeps asking for a visit. Susan refuses because he abandoned their family over 30 years ago and she does not want to forgive or seek closure. The episode ends with the juxtaposition of Susan’s father about to die and Sir Magnus’ anger at his wife confronting him over his betrayal.
What happens at Alan’s funeral? Who is Ms. Darnley in the modern-day story? We’ll find out next week on Magpie Murders.