Last Updated on October 27, 2022
Part contemporary mystery, part period drama, “Magpie Murders” premieres on MASTERPIECE on PBS in the fall of 2022.
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In the present day, a British mystery author Alan Conway dies under suspicious circumstance, with his last book seemingly unfinished. This leaves two mysteries: What happened to him? And how does his latest potboiler—set in the 1950s—end?
A beguiling murder mystery with a solution that will both astonish and shock viewers, the plot of “Magpie Murders” (2022) revolves around the character Susan Ryeland, the editor who is given Conway’s unfinished manuscript, and has little idea it will change her life.
Co-produced by PBS’ MASTERPIECE, “Magpie Murders” is based on the ingenious bestselling novel of the same name by Anthony Horowitz, and is told in two storylines, one which takes place in the 1950s. The television adaptation is also scripted by Horowitz, who is known to MASTERPIECE fans for the popular World War II mystery Foyle’s War.
Lauded as “a magnificent piece of crime fiction” and “an ingenious novel within a novel” by the Sunday Times (London), Magpie Murders topped multiple best-seller lists including the New York Times and appeared on the year-end Best Books lists of NPR, USA Today and others.
Read on for plot and cast details, premiere date, episode descriptions and airtimes, and to watch the trailer.
“Magpie Murders” (Season 1) airs in six spellbinding episodes, Sundays, October 16 – November 20, 2022 at 9/8c on PBS MASTERPIECE. After broadcast, the full-length PBS programs will be available here for a limited time. You’ll still be able to stream them here, after that.
A dead mystery author. An incomplete manuscript. Suspects galore.
This juicy setup for Anthony Horowitz’s bestselling novel, Magpie Murders, is coming to MASTERPIECE in an adaptation by Horowitz himself starring Academy Award®-nominee Lesley Manville (The Crown, Phantom Thread).
“There’s never been a TV mystery like this,” notes MASTERPIECE Executive Producer Susanne Simpson. “Anthony Horowitz weaves together a real world with an imaginary one, giving viewers multiple murders to solve and keeping them guessing right up to the end.”
Jill Green, Executive Producer agrees, “It’s ingenious and playful at the same time.” She says the strong female lead–Lesley Manville as book editor Susan Ryeland, who assumes the role of detective in the case–treads “the line between reality and fiction as she fights to uncover the truth.”
As longtime editor to mystery writer Alan Conway (Conleth Hill, Game of Thrones), Susan Ryeland has thwarted his ambition to compose great literature, channeling Conway’s talents into compulsively readable whodunits. Even though he’s become a very wealthy man, Alan nonetheless resents Susan’s heavy editorial hand.
Tim McMullan (The Crown, Patrick Melrose) stars as Atticus Pünd, the 1950s era Poirot-like hero of the fictional series penned by the irascible author.
Shortly after turning in his latest Atticus Pünd blockbuster, Alan dies under suspicious circumstances. Plus the manuscript is missing its crucial last chapter! Since Alan’s astute publisher, Charles Clover (Michael Maloney,The Crown) is in negotiations to sell his publishing company, and Alan is its greatest asset, financial ruin looms for both Charles and Susan, who is in line to become the next CEO, if she chooses.
Thus, “Magpie Murders” presents two mysteries: What happened to Alan, and what happens in the last chapter of his new book, titled Magpie Murders? Susan informally heads the first investigation, taking place in the here and now. Meanwhile, Pünd and the characters in Alan’s novel enact a separate mystery plot, set in 1955.
In a clever blending of present and past, fact and fiction, some of the characters in Susan’s world are portrayed by the same actors in Pünd’s. This is because Alan wrote thinly disguised real people into his books, usually to even scores.
Therefore, Daniel Mays (1917) doubles as Detective Superintendent Locke in Susan’s world and the dull-witted D.I. Chubb in Pünd’s. Matthew Beard (Vienna Blood) is Alan’s lover, James Taylor, and also Pünd’s slow-on-the-uptake sidekick, James Fraser. Pippa Haywood (Mr. Selfridge) is Alan’s underachieving sister, Claire, as well as the resentful Clarissa, sister of the brutally murdered Sir Magnus Pye (Lorcan Cranitch, Rome).
Harry Lawtey is Robert Blakiston, and Nia Deacon is his determined, loyal fiancée Joy Sanderling. Alexandros Logothetis (The Durrells in Corfu) costars as Susan’s Greek-teaching lover, Andreas; and Claire Rushbrook (Home Fires) is her suburban sister, Katie. Both Katie and Andreas knew Alan when he was a poor instructor at a private school with unlikely dreams of becoming a published author. Little did anyone know…
One final mystery: Alan vehemently insists that the title of his book is Magpie Murders, not The Magpie Murders. Could that be a clue?
Critics were transfixed during the show’s UK broadcast. “A satisfying dose of armchair detective fun,” applauded The Guardian. “Yikes, this is excellent,” raved The Times. And The Telegraph was dazzled: “In a grey TV landscape crammed with humdrum whodunits, Magpie Murders is a splash of vivid color.” Sign us up.
Magpie Murders (2022) Premiere Dates on PBS MASTERPIECE
Episode One: Sunday, October 16, 2022; 9-10pm ET on PBS
A mystery author turns in the manuscript for his latest book, but the last chapter is missing. His editor investigates and is soon on the trail of a suspicious death. After broadcast, the full-length PBS program will be available here for a limited time.
Episode Two: Sunday, October 23, 2022; 9-10pm ET on PBS
Everyone he knew had reason to kill mystery author Alan Conway. But was his fatal fall actually murder? The missing last chapter of his new book may hold the secret. After broadcast, the full-length PBS program will be available here for a limited time.
Episode Three: Sunday, October 30, 2022; 9-10pm ET on PBS
Angling to sell his publishing firm and retire, Charles leans on Susan to take over as CEO. In a parallel story, the detective plot in Alan’s last novel unfolds. After broadcast, the full-length PBS program will be available here for a limited time.
Episode Four: Sunday, November 6, 2022; 9-10pm ET on PBS
The puzzle pieces of Alan’s death get more and more jumbled. At the same time, the plot of his new book and the lives of his acquaintances start to converge. After broadcast, the full-length PBS program will be available here for a limited time.
Episode Five: Sunday, November 13, 2022; 9-10pm ET on PBS
Susan’s sister and Andreas have unexpected connections to Alan. Meanwhile, Pünd wraps up his investigation, promising, “Very soon all will be made clear!” After broadcast, the full-length PBS program will be available here for a limited time.
Episode Six: Sunday, November 20, 2022; 9-10pm ET on PBS
Susan cracks her case—not without mishap—then accompanies Pünd as he lays out the solution to Alan’s final book, as magpies watch from above. After broadcast, the full-length PBS program will be available here for a limited time.
If you enjoyed this post, wander over to The Period Films List for suggestions of other period dramas to watch. Also see July is Mystery Month on BritBox.