Yet to say that the series doesn't rival those two landmarks is hardly a damning criticism. The show is brisk and very enjoyably acted, especially by Manville, whom you may know from numerous Mike Leigh films and as the sister to Daniel Day-Lewis' character in The Phantom Thread. She plays Susan with just the right level of seriousness. She nails the script's sharp lines and captures the bustling way that she buries herself in her job, thereby letting her avoid dealing with personal issues, like her Greek boyfriend who wants her to move to Crete and run a hotel, or her sister who wants her to make peace with her dying father.
It was the torment of Conway's literary career that he wanted to write serious books on serious themes, but the public only wanted the cleverness of Atticus Pünd. Horowitz, who adapted his own novel, clearly feels no such artistic frustration. Possessed of boundless energy — he's also written Sherlock Holmes novels, James Bond novels and the Alex Rider YA series, among others — he feels no shame in being clever and entertaining. On the contrary.
Indeed, Magpie Murders neatly riffs on the relationship of art and life. It's especially astute about the consolations of detective novels. In a world of emotional uncertainties, Susan notes, the Atticus Pünd novels offer the pleasurable closure of a neat resolution. The same is true of this TV series. Our daily lives may not be easy, but at the end of Magpie Murders we get the satisfaction of knowing who done it.
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