reviewed by Cara DiCostanzo
Magpies are birds known for their bold personality and intelligence. They are also well-known for their calls and songs. Many birds have a song or a few calls, but magpies chatter, whistle, trill, and warble. These birds have even been known to mimic sounds around them such as wind chimes or a dog’s barking.
Marisa has always had trouble with relationships. Abandoned by her mother and sister when she was seven, she clings on and when the man pulls away, she displays more disturbing behavior. When she meets Jake on a dating app, she can’t believe her luck. He is tall, handsome, and interested in her. After three months, he wants to start a family with her! They rent a home together and she becomes pregnant after a few months. Because Marisa isn’t making money, Jake suggests they take in a lodger. When Kate moves in, they all seem to get along until it seems Kate knows everything about them. Marisa becomes suspicious and possessive, even following Kate to work. Three might be a crowd, but is there really a cause for alarm? Are Kate and Jake having an affair when they seem to be too close for comfort, in Marisa’s opinion?
I went into Magpie thinking I had the entire book figured out by the 20th page. It seemed like it would follow the basic formula of a girl getting pregnant, husband having an affair, Mother-in-law is evil precedent, but I will admit I was very wrong. In that sense, this book is clever. I believed it was leading me one way, but it actually wasn’t. It was something else entirely, which still seems implausible to me in the way it was delivered. It keeps the reader in a sense of unease and tension, not knowing what is going to happen, but knowing it is not what you expect. Each character is multi-layered except Jake, who honestly seems clueless most of the time. Marissa is a ticking time bomb with emotions ranging from anger to docile to insecurity. Kate comes across as a regimented, type A personality who excels at manipulation. Annabelle, Jake’s mother, is passive aggressive in the very worst way. The author writes sensitively about some triggering issues including mental health, infertility, and miscarriage.
Magpie was almost two novels in one, and that made it less enjoyable for me. There is a first part and a second part. To be clear, the first part is a thriller, but the second part is about a pregnancy with mental health issues, where there is no mystery or thrilling moments. There are definitely some predictable plot points and the ending was a little too clean cut. I wish the first part had been the entire book. I enjoyed Magpie, but it was not the five-star read I wanted it to be.