Magpie Lane | Review
Rating - ⭐⭐1/2
"When the eight-year-old daughter of an Oxford College Master vanishes in the middle of the night, police turn to the Scottish nanny, Dee, for answers. As Dee looks back over her time in the Master's Lodging—an eerie and ancient house—a picture of a high achieving but dysfunctional family emerges: Nick, the fiercely intelligent and powerful father; his beautiful Danish wife Mariah, pregnant with their child; and the lost little girl, Felicity, almost mute, seeing ghosts, grieving her dead mother.
But is Dee telling the whole story? Is her growing friendship with the eccentric house historian, Linklater, any cause for concern? And most of all, why was Felicity silent?"
Magpie Lane is a standalone mystery novel by Lucy Atkins.
Before going into this, I had never heard of this book. I stumbled upon it because I was looking for a book to fit a very specific prompt and ended up finding this. There were a couple of books I have read in the past that I have also never heard of before, and I ended up rather enjoying them.
This was not one of those cases. I honestly don't even know what to think about this book, because the way the story was handled was just disappointing. I thought I was going to get a lot more out of this than I did, and what I did get wasn't very interesting.
Let's get into the details.
I don't know if my ebook was broken or something, but the way this was written was odd. Most of the lines of dialogue had a dash in front of them for some reason, and there were just a lot of dashes in general. Because there were no quotations, the dialogue just ended up flowing right into the description which didn't read out well.
There were also spelling and grammar mistakes such as saying foetal instead of fetal and drink instead of drunk. There were also some instances like saying 'leaving for ever' instead of 'forever' or 'pressurize her to speak' instead of 'pressure'.
In addition to the grammar and spelling mistakes, there were awkward sentences such as 'I also hadn't eaten since a sausage roll' and 'my father would have murdered for a thirty-year-old Talisker'.
Overall, the writing was a bit of a mess and I found it difficult to read it at times.
I will waste no time in saying that, in hind sight, the synopsis ends up ruining the book. It ended up promising a lot more than what actually happened. What interested me the most about the idea of the story was the mention of Oxford's secret passages and hidden graveyards. If that is something that also entices you, don't get your hopes up, because it is really not all that exciting.
Turns out, the secret passages are only a single priest's door, which is essentially a small cupboard and can hardly count as a secret passage and more of a hidey-hole. And the hidden graveyards, only one was mentioned and barely at that. The only things I was excited to read about and my hopes were dashed.
One other aspect mentioned in the synopsis that could have been interesting was the fact that Felicity, the missing girl, is selectively mute. The synopsis made it sound like it was some big mystery as to why she stopped talking, for the most part, but the reveal ended up only being mentioned very briefly in passing. And the same could be said about her seeing ghosts, as that plotline led absolutely nowhere.
The plot just was nowhere near as interesting and mysterious as I was expecting it to be, and it ended up practically being a family drama instead.
The way the plot unfolded was in the most roundabout way. The story is told through Dee, the nanny, as she is being investigated by the police about everything that led up to Felicity's disappearance. Too much time is spent building up the mystery, so much so that the whodunnit wasn't revealed until the epilogue...the epilogue.
In all honesty, I wished that this story was told from Linklaters perspective. I think it would have made for a way better story if this followed him researching the house and uncovering its dark past.
Without spoiling anything, pretty much all of the characters were unlikable, except for maybe Linklater. I did not trust Dee for one second, and Nick and Mariah neglected their daughter, which didn't make for the best reading experience.
My issue with Dee was that I felt like she was crossing some lines as a nanny. Not that I would know, but she considered herself to be her proxy parent, and was getting a bit too attached and personal with Felicity. Not that you shouldn't care for the wellbeing of the child you are looking after, but the way she went about her job was a bit obsessive and it rubbed me the wrong way.
This just wasn't a book for me. If you like books that are about dysfunctional families and family drama, maybe this will work better for you?