In The Rhyme of the Magpie by Marty Wingate, Julia Lanchester is the daughter of Rupert Lanchester, the famous ornithologist with a popular television show called A Bird in the Hand. Three months ago, she suddenly quit her job as her father’s chief production assistant when he married Beryl, her mother’s best friend, less than six months after becoming widowed. Instead she got a job as a tourist manager in Smeaton-under-Lyme, promoting the castle of Lord Fatheringale. Now her father comes to her because he is in trouble, but Julia brushes brushes him off. However, the next day Beryl calls Julia in a panic because Rupert has disappeared. She saw him receive a letter that upset him but which he didn’t show to her or anyone.
Julia ends up seeking out her father, with the assistance of the charming Michael Sedgwick, who has replaced her as production assistant in the show. Together the pair goes to Rupert’s cabin in the woods, but though the electricity is uncharacteristically turned on, they find no sign of Julia’s father. Then going into the woods, Julia trips over a body. It is not that of her father, but rather of Kenneth Kursey, who, as communications director of the wind farm group Power to the People, is the enemy of Rupert for not being environmentally friendly in his arrangement of his turbines. Julia fears that Rupert is likely to be blamed for the murder, but where has he gone? And what was the letter that upset Rupert so much? Julia looks into the case, directed by sightings of magpies, using a child’s counting rhyme that she and her father have always seen as guiding them.
The Rhyme of the Magpie is an enjoyable mystery, though not highly memorable. I appreciated the setting of birds and birders, with all the information about the world of birds and environmental issues. The use of the magpie rhyme (see below) came across a little oddly, though. For example, because she sees four magpies, Julia realizes that her sister is pregnant and that she will have a boy. There were also a lot of minor characters who made the book confusing at times. In addition, Julia inexplicably switches between calling her father Dad and Rupert. Without any explanation for this strange usage, it seems very strange.
Beverly A. Crick performs the audio edition of this book. She does a good job of making Julia, the first- person narrator of the book, seem realistic. With a gentle voice, Crick adds flavor to the audiobook and makes it enjoyable.
The Rhyme of the Magpie was a pleasurable audiobook. I didn’t find it particularly exciting, but it kept me listening happily. I give this book four stars.
One for sorrow
Two for joy
Three for a girl
Four for a boy
Five for silver
Six for gold
Seven for a secret never to be told
Eight for a wish
Nine for a kiss
Ten for a bird that’s best to miss.
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