THE MAGPIES is a terrifying psychological thriller in which the monsters are not vampires or demons but the people we live next door to. It is a nightmare that could happen to anyone.
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It opens with the seemingly idyllic lives of Jamie, a software engineer and Kirsty, a paediatric nurse; a young couple who are very much in love and starting out in their first home together – the ‘perfect’ flat in North London, where they plan to start a family, get married and generally be blissfully happy… But this is a psychological thriller, so there’s not much chance of any of that!
We’re introduced to the neighbours – Lucy and Chris in the basement flat, a couple who seem keen to befriend Jamie and Kirsty, inviting them to dinner not long after they move in (might just be my cynical ‘living in London’ attitude, but this immediately screamed ‘BEWARE!’); then there’s Mary – resident pot-smoking herbalist/witch/cat-lady on the floor above, and finally Brian and Linda who seem normal enough until Jamie goes up to fix Brian’s computer and finds a room full of black walls and generally scary stuff – but then it turns out that Brian is a children’s horror author, so that’s all ok…
It doesn’t take long before the terror starts. It’s innocuous at first. Hoax pizza deliveries, targeted junk mail, unwanted parcels. Then it ramps up a gear: disgruntled firemen responding to a fake 999 call, a letter complaining about noise, a recording of them making love (which the do quite a lot!) , then it’s The War of The Worlds, weird dreams and a plague of spiders. Meanwhile, Jamie’s best friend Paul is seriously injured in a karting accident, and Kirsty finds out she is pregnant… but the tensions of the house are starting to get to the young couple, and it’s not long before it all gets too much.
I read this novel in two sittings. Would’ve been one, but unfortunately I had to go to work (so annoying, real life…) The pacing is excellent. It was clear from the outset that the happy couple’s lives were going to be thrown into turmoil, and the way it was done was subtle and creepy enough to keep the feeling of dread trickling throughout. I felt quite sick with fear through the last third (and that was after I’d blocked out the image of the spiders). Jamie and Kirsty, and in fact the entire cast of characters, were extremely well drawn. I really related to the couple’s frustrations and rising paranoia. I’ve had some weird neighbours before. They might not have gone to the extremes that these psychopaths did, but they drove us out of our flat. Luckily we remained ‘mentally intact’…
What The Magpies illustrates so effectively is just how easy it is for any of our lives to unravel.
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I’d like to thanks Mark for providing the e-ARC and also for his upcoming guest post, which I know you’re going to love 🙂