Magpie by Elizabeth Day is a thriller that touches on more sensitive topics. Marisa is pregnant with her first child, but things aren’t as they seem as her new housemate seems strangely obsessed with them.
All quotes are from an advanced reader copy, and may or may not reflect the published edition.
She has almost everything. The rest she’ll take.Marisa may have only known Jake a few months, but she has never felt this certain about anyone. When he asks her to move in with him and they start trying for a baby, she knows she has finally found the steadfast love and support she has been looking for all her life.But their relationship is tested when they take in a lodger, Kate, who has little regard for personal boundaries and seems to take an uncomfortable interest in Jake – as well as the baby they are hoping to have.Why is Kate so obsessed with the couple? And, more worryingly, why doesn’t Jake share Marisa’s concern?In her determination to find the answers, Marisa risks losing everything she holds dear…Magpie is a tense, twisting, brilliantly written novel about mothers and children, envy and possession, and the dangers of getting everything you’ve ever dreamed of.
“That fucking crazy bitch is carrying our baby.”
This book is a tricky one to review. I’m going to start with the good parts. The pacing in the story is fantastic, and the way it’s split into two parts works really well here. Our characters are all relatively interesting. None of them are inherently horrible people, which makes you suspect everyone while being hopeful that it’s none of your guesses. What the situation ended up actually being shocked me, and I generally guess an ending well before the twist. All of this sounds like the groundwork for an amazing thriller, except that, it wasn’t.
“It was astonishing to her how someone so small could create so much havoc.”
Despite there constantly being stressful things happening, I felt unbothered. The characters often brushed drastic things off or handled them in a completely detached manner. I’m not necessarily against characters being under-emotional, but in this instance, it felt…unlikely. It was as though our author wrote the book with the plot fully in mind, but the characters came absolutely last. Was there any character development? Not particularly. Did anyone grow from the experience? Well, not particularly. It all fell flat on its face because our characters never reacted in the dramatic manner that we would usually expect from a thriller.
“Hearing Marisa speak to her now, Kate feels her tummy flip again, except this time it doesn’t return to normal.”
This thriller touches on two really relevant topics, though, and I feel it handled them decently. The first is infertility, which is the main focus of the story. I don’t want to spoil the book itself, but, I do want to note that this is a massive plot point. It’s hard to discuss without ruining the twist, so I’ll leave you with that fair warning. The second topic is mental illness. Instead of completely villainizing our mentally unwell character, the people who interacted with them showed that they cared. Sure, this inherently took away from the shock and thrill of the book- but it also prevented the use of mental illness for shock value to be frustrating. We’ve seen mental illness be used and abused as a plot point in domestic thrillers over and over again, and I felt this was a bit of a different way to do it. While I personally can say it was a refreshing take, I don’t have the mental illness mentioned, and thus can’t speak too much further on it.
“I’ll fucking destroy you, Marisa thinks.”
For a fast-paced book, I felt this story was emotionally boring. This caused me to not enjoy it nearly as much as I should have. I have given this book 2.5 stars out of five, and hope that maybe our author’s next book will have more emotionally relatable characters.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.