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'Magpie Murders' Recap: Episode 4

Daniel Hautzinger
Charles Clover in Magpie Murders
Charles needs Susan to decide whether she will take over from him as CEO of Clover Books. Photo: Eleventh Hour Films

Magpie Murders airs Sundays at 8:00 pm and is available to stream. Recap the previous and following episodes.
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It’s a tale of two funerals. Charles and Susan will drive to Suffolk together to attend Alan Conway’s burial, while in Magpie Murders Atticus Pünd and his assistant Fraser plan to observe the funeral of Sir Magnus to see if any guests give a hint that they know something about Sir Magnus’s death.

Before they leave London, Charles presses Susan to decide whether she will take over Clover Books after he retires—the press has gotten wind of the possible buyout. He wants Susan to safeguard the business he has spent his life building. But she’s also debating Andreas’ offer to move to Crete to run a hotel that he and his cousin have bought with money procured mysteriously through his cousin’s connections. Susan’s inability to decide has made her relationship with Andreas tense and uncomfortable. She asks Charles for a few more days before she makes a choice.

As she and Charles drive to Suffolk, this time avoiding frustrating roadwork thanks to Charles’ suggestion, they discuss suspects in Magpie Murders. Did Brent the groundskeeper kill Sir Magnus? Was it his wife, Lady Pye?

Whoever killed him, they may have then burned a document in Sir Magnus’ office. The scrap of paper found in the fireplace there doesn’t have any fingerprints, the police inspector Chubb tells Pünd, but the stain on it is blood that matches Sir Magnus’s blood type. Perhaps the killer searched the office and burned the paper after decapitating Sir Magnus.

It’s also still unclear if Mary Blakiston was murdered or died in an accident. Saxby-on-Avon’s Dr. Kamal, who was the first to examine her body, thinks she tripped in the cord of her vacuum while cleaning at the top of the stairs, as he tells Pünd. Kamal had been summoned to Pye Hall by Brent, who looked in when he heard the phone ringing and Mary didn’t answer it.

Pünd is visiting Dr. Kamal because he collapsed due to his brain tumor and Fraser insisted that he see a doctor—Fraser doesn’t know about Pünd’s cancer. As Pünd leaves Kamal, the doctor’s receptionist, Joy Sanderling—the woman who initially brought Saxby-on-Avon to Pünd’s attention—stops him and asks him to speak to her fiancé, Robert Blakiston, about the death of his brother years ago. Pünd agrees to after Sir Magnus’s funeral.

During drinks at Alan’s mansion after his burial, his lawyer Sajid Khan approaches Susan and asks if she’s read Magpie Murders—is he in it? Indeed: Alan based Dr. Kamal on Sajid. But Susan is more interested in speaking to Alan’s ex-wife, Melissa. Their son, Freddy, is also reluctantly there. He hates his father for being self-centered and for coming out as gay, which led to Freddy being bullied in school. “I’m glad he’s dead,” Freddy says, speculating that someone pushed Alan to his death.

Melissa is more forgiving to Alan, even though he was difficult. She blames herself, in part, for him being miserable. He wanted to write great literature like Martin Amis or Salman Rushdie, but publishers rejected his two novels in that vein. Only once she suggested he write something popular, like a whodunit, did he find success—but he hated being a mystery writer.

Melissa also unwittingly reveals something more startling to Susan: she once dated Andreas, who taught at the same school as Alan. Susan is stunned, and doesn’t mention that she is now seeing Andreas.

But she doesn’t have time to dwell on the shock, as Alan’s erstwhile partner and now heir James is making a toast. He explains that he’s selling Alan’s home to his neighbor, Jack White. Alan always wanted to buy out Jack, with whom he often sparred; now the reverse is happening. James sends everyone home, and Susan speaks to Jack outside. Alan wasn’t an easy neighbor, Jack tells her, always picking fights. Jack is buying the home so that he can choose who lives there and avoid any more conflict.

Susan heads off to her sister Katie’s to stay overnight in Suffolk, while Charles grabs a ride to the train station with the police inspector Locke. On her way there, she decides to visit her father in the hospital. He has had a stroke and wants to see Susan, as Katie has relayed.

Upon her arrival, he says sorry. Susan assumes he is apologizing for leaving her mother for the nanny, but he doesn’t regret that: he loved her, and they were happy together. He is actually apologizing for not showing Susan love and thus leading her to never marry or trust a man.

This obviously upsets Susan, who leaves, telling him she shouldn’t have come. As she calms her nerves with a cigarette, she conjures up a conversation with Pünd to think things through. She blames her father for the death of her mother, Samantha, she tells the imaginary detective, explaining that Samantha went on a holiday to the Lake District after Max left her and drowned, in what was officially determined to be an accident—but Susan doesn’t believe it was.

Robert Blakiston’s brother Sam also drowned, as he narrates to Pünd. Their father was away during the war, so Mary moved her sons to Pye Hall to work as the housekeeper there. Sir Magnus was like a father to the boys, sending them on treasure hunts to search the grounds for silver coins, like those that were stolen from his house after the death of Mary Blakiston.

On one such hunt, the brothers were separated. Sam must have thought there was a coin in the lake. Brent found him and pulled him out of the water; Robert saw and splashed into the lake to help. He always suspected Brent, who was annoyed by the boys and their games, but the police never found anything on the groundskeeper.

Sam’s death caused the end of the Blakistons’ marriage, as they both blamed each other. Robert blames everyone involved: Sir Magnus, Brent, his mother, even himself.

Susan has a realization: her parents’ drama is in Magpie Murders. Sam, the boy who drowned, is her mother, Samantha. Sir Magnus is her father, Max, and the name of the governess whom Sir Magnus got pregnant is a reference to the source material: “Darnley” is an anagram of Susan’s last name, Ryeland.

Susan is furious. Alan played so many cruel games with peoples lives. She rushes to Katie’s house and asks if she told Alan about their parents. Katie, whose children were taught by Alan, admits that she ran into him and had a coffee. He seemed so nice and friendly, but really he was just prying into her family’s lives for material.

Susan knows it’s not Katie’s fault, and they share a hug. Susan goes upstairs to change before dinner and checks her emails. There’s one with a photo of two shadowy figures struggling on the roof of the tower from which Alan fell to his death.