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'Magpie Murders' Recap: Episode 6

Daniel Hautzinger
Susan Ryeland in Magpie Murders
Susan finally solves Alan's murder, which means she also gets to learn who did it in his last book. Photo: Eleventh Hour Films

Magpie Murders airs Sundays at 8:00 pm and is available to stream. Recap the previous episode.
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“A Secret Never to Be Told” is the title of the final chapter of Magpie Murders, and it certainly seems that the mystery of who killed Sir Magnus Pye—and Alan Conway—will never be solved. Susan has given up on finding that final chapter of Alan’s last book. Charles has approached someone else about becoming CEO of Clover Books after a merger deal, and Susan tells him it’s the right decision—although she seems to have mixed feelings. So that’s another chapter closed.

And Magpie Murders will close with a chapter written by another author, who, like Charles, prefers the title The Magpie Murders. Why was Alan so insistent that the book not start with “the?”

Susan realizes while looking at a publicity poster for Atticus Pünd listing all eight novels in chronological order: the first letters of their titles spell out “an anagram” when Magpie Murders is included. Alan loved word games.

Susan also learns that one of her colleagues has bumped into Charles’ assistant Jemima, who just left Clover Books. Susan arranges a meeting with Jemima, and realizes that Charles has been lying to her. Jemima says the Magpie Murders manuscript came in the mail on Wednesday; Charles said Alan gave it to him at dinner on Thursday. Jemima says Charles wanted to surprise Susan with the manuscript.

But he also lied about Jemima, telling Susan it was Jemima’s idea to leave Clover when in truth he told her it would be best for her to leave, on Friday morning.

Susan returns to Clover and searches through Charles’ desk. She finds the final chapter of Magpie Murders and flips to the final pages.

Charles appears, having forgotten something. He says that he can explain; he did it all for the company.

Susan walks through all that she has deduced. Charles read the manuscript before dinner with Alan, and made Jemima leave her job the following day so that Jemima couldn’t tell Susan he had already seen the manuscript.

Upset by the ending of Magpie Murders, in which Alan has Atticus Pünd commit suicide because of his terminal cancer, thus killing off Clover’s most profitable detective, Charles drove up to Suffolk to speak to Alan. Even though Charles told Susan he hadn’t been to Alan’s house in several months, he knew that there was construction on the roads and warned her of it before they had seen it when they drove to Alan’s funeral together.

When Charles arrived that Saturday evening at Abbey Grange, he saw that Andreas was already there and parked out of sight—the source of the tire tracks Susan noticed on her first visit to Abbey Grange. When Charles saw Andreas and Alan on the tower, he snapped photos that made it look like Andreas was pushing Alan off.

Alan had always hated Pünd; he wanted to be a literary writer. Diagnosed with terminal cancer, he decided to finally kill off his hated detective and activate the trap he had hidden in the series from the start. The titles indicate “an anagram.” Of what? Atticus Pünd. The anagram is “A stupid…”—we’ll let you figure out the last word.

This would obviously have ruined Clover’s reputation, stopped the merger, and cost Charles millions. So Charles killed Alan, pushing him off the tower.

But Charles needed a story. Alan had handwritten Charles a letter of apology for his drunken behavior at dinner. Charles found Alan’s handwritten draft of Magpie Murders, which concludes with a suicide letter from Pünd, and incorporated that fictional letter into the real letter, thus making it seem like Alan had also written a suicide letter. Charles cleared out all of Alan’s notes and manuscripts and discarded the final chapter; he couldn’t let anyone see the Pünd suicide letter. But he had to type the envelope for the handwritten letter, a detail Susan noticed.

Susan tells Charles to turn himself in; he asks for one evening to tell his wife everything. As Susan turns to leave, Charles bashes her on the head with a hefty literary award. He douses the room in alcohol from his bar, lights it, kicks Susan on the ground, and leaves. She manages to grab Alan’s letter and manuscript, including the final chapter, then collapses.

But Andreas, unnerved by the anonymous email sent to Susan with photos of him and Alan, has asked a techy colleague to figure out who sent it. Learning it came from Clover Books, Andreas goes to see Susan, whom he is worried about. He rescues her from the fire.

She wakes in the hospital with her sister Katie at her side. Charles has been arrested; Susan and Katie’s father has died. Susan apologizes to Andreas, who has already forgiven her for believing he could be a murderer. She tells him she will move to Crete with him. Everything is wrapped up.

Except Magpie Murders. Who killed Sir Magnus? Pünd appears and invites Susan to observe as he reveals the answer to Joy Sanderling, Robert Blakiston, Inspector Chubb, and Fraser.

Mary Blakiston’s death is easily explained. The upstairs phones at Pye Hall didn’t work, as Lady Pye told Pünd. Lady Pye called Pye Hall while Mary was vacuuming; Mary rushed downstairs to answer the phone, tripped on her cord, and fell to her death. That’s why Pünd told Fraser Lady Pye “killed” Mary.

Sir Magnus’s death is more complicated. To explain it requires first explaining the death of Mary’s son Sam. Pünd and Fraser have visited Mary’s ex-husband, who revealed various things, including that Mary became over-protective of Robert after Sam’s death, Robert and Sam were sometimes jealous of each other and fought, and that Sam’s dog Bella was killed by rat poison; everyone assumed Brent did it, since he didn’t like the dog.

Robert was jealous when Sam got Bella, so he killed the dog. In a later fight or fit of jealousy, he also killed his brother, drowning him in the lake. Mary saw it from the window of her sewing room. Robert splashed into the lake when Brent found Sam to disguise that he was already wet. Mary kept Bella’s dog collar in the sewing room as a reminder of what her son could do. She began to treat Robert like a prisoner to protect others from him, not to protect him. This is why she opposed Robert’s marriage to Joy; not out of racism, but out of a fear that Robert’s “disturbed” mind would infect a future generation.

Fearing for her own safety, Mary wrote a letter explaining everything and gave it to Sir Magnus with orders to open it if she died. She told Robert to insure that he would never do anything to her.

Robert recalled the letter during Mary’s funeral, when the vicar said, “We must also remember what she left behind,” and became upset. He broke into Pye Hall to take the letter before Sir Magnus returned, but couldn’t get into the safe and so took the silver instead, staging a burglary. Sir Magnus called him to Pye Hall after he read the letter, believing that Robert killed his mother. Robert then killed Sir Magnus in order to hide his secret. He took the letter—staining it with Sir Magnus’s blood—and burned it.

But he burned the wrong envelope, taking the typewritten one from Clarissa Pye’s anonymous letter denouncing plans to develop Dingle Dell instead of the handwritten one from Mary Blakiston. Pünd recognized Mary’s handwriting on that envelope.

And that’s it. Both mysteries are solved. Susan and Pünd go for a final walk through Dingle Dell together before bidding each other goodbye. A new story waits for Susan in Crete.