When Jamie and Kirsty first move into their flat on Mount Pleasant Street, they feel optimistic for their futures. The flat was at the upper end of their budget, yet worth more than they paid for. Here, they can see the future mapped out – marriage, children. And their neighbours all seem friendly – there’s Brian and Linda on the top floor, the somewhat eccentric Mary on the floor above them and the Newtons in the garden flat.
But then things take a strange turn. They start receiving anonymous letters complaining about the noise they’re making, and dead rats are left outside their door. Then Jamie’s best friend is involved in an accident, one that leaves him comatose, and Jamie and Kirsty find that they are slowly driven to despair, powerless to stop the campaign launched against them.
The Magpies is the June book for Janel’s (@ Keeper of Pages) Criminally Good Bookclub, and one that I was instantly intrigued by upon reading the blurb. A psychological thriller, it touches lightly on horror related themes – not horror as in the ghosts or monsters, but the kind of horror that happens in real life. That’s not to say that this is a scary novel, because I didn’t find it so, but there are certainly some creepy elements to it.
I really liked Jamie and Kirsty, and found myself sympathising with their situation. They are a young, hard-working couple who are trying to make a life for themselves together and start a family. With some novels, it doesn’t matter too much if you don’t like the protagonist, but in this case I felt that it was important, as they haven’t done anything wrong or committed any great crime, and it was easy to identify with their anger and frustration. And they react the way that any normal couple would – they try to ignore it, hoping it will go away, they try to discuss the situation with those that they believe to be behind it all, they eventually call the police who, of course, can’t really do anything. It was so easy to imagine this happening to someone you know, and I was constantly thinking “what would I do in this situation?”. Needless to say, this makes it an engaging read.
If there was one aspect of the novel that I wasn’t particularly keen on, it was the detail around the nightmares that Kirsty in particular suffers from. It’s not a big focus of the novel, and this is purely my opinion, but it just didn’t add anything to the novel for me. I can understand that that the stressful situation they are in would cause someone’s sleep to suffer, and that their stress is likely to manifest itself in a person’s dream, but I thought that this was a little overdone. As I say, that is just my opinion, and as it isn’t a significant part of the novel it didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment at all.
I’ve deliberately not said much about the plot for The Magpies, as it would be all too easy to give the ending away for other readers. It didn’t turn out how I expected it to, however, and I was pleased by this. Reading a lot of psychological thrillers, you start to see where a story might go, and it’s always nice to find one that can surprise you.