Review: The Magpies by Mark Edwards

When Jamie and Kirsty buy a dream flat together everything seems like it is going to be happy ever after, but when unwanted parcels, junk mail, and fast food they didn’t order start arriving they slowly come to realise that everything isn’t quite right. For a start their downstairs neighbours, the Newtons, seem like an odd couple, but despite this they try to form a friendly bond with them. However, after a very suspicious accident leaves Jamie’s best friend in a coma they realise that the Newtons aren’t just odd they are bad and dangerous with it. As their relationship with the neighbours from hell goes from bad to worse, and their own relationship starts to fall apart, Jamie and Kirsty come to understand that their dream flat is actually a nightmare.

As part of a writing partnership with Louise Voss, Mark Edwards has had considerable success: their novels Catch Your Death and Killing Cupid were both big bestsellers. The Magpies Edwards’ first novel without Voss, is already a huge hit, and seems certain to stay in the Amazon Kindle UK bestseller chart for some time (at time of writing it is No. 1). But is it any good, I hear you ask? Well, yes, I certainly enjoyed it.

A creepy prologue sets the reader on edge and pays off later in the tale. Edwards’ prose is smooth and reads well, and the characters of Jamie and Kirsty are well-rounded. Edwards’ handling of the narrative is equally as smooth and the escalations in the story are done nicely. I wasn’t all that happy with the transformation of Jamie’s friend, Paul, following the accident; he changes from a likeable character to an arsehole very quickly. Of course, some people do have complete personality changes after major accidents, but the way it was handled felt like a minor stumble. The ending also felt slightly rushed, to me at least, which is a shame because it seemed like the set-up was in place for something a bit more grand. Still, these are minor quibbles, because overall The Magpies is a good tale, well told.

Review: Killing Cupid by Mark Edwards & Louise Voss

Mark Edwards and Louise Voss are excellent examples of authors who have done very well out of the self-publishing boom. Their novel Catch Your Death was one of 2011’s best-selling Kindle novels and Killing Cupid also did very well in the charts.

In fact, they were offered a book deal due to their online success and this is how I came to be reading the print edition of Killing Cupid rather than the ebook. Apparently both this novel and Catch Your Death have been amended from the ebook editions, though I obviously couldn’t say how much this changes the finished article.

The novel begins with a woman’s death, by a fall from the stairwell of her building. Alex describes fleeing the scene of the crime whilst giving the reader an indication that he’s prepared to kill for the woman he loves. The object of his affection is the teacher of a creative writing class that he attends, Siobhan.

Alex falls in love with Siobhan at first sight and becomes obsessed with her. Stalking her first on Facebook and then in the real world. Hanging around where she lives and then finally getting into her home. He becomes jealous of his teacher’s friendship with one of the other students, a female and this is where death comes into the equation. Siobhan, who is dealing with a relationship break-up, doesn’t initially realise she’s being stalked, but once Alex steals her credit card details in order to send her gifts she finally cottons on.

She kicks him off her course and threatens him with the police if he doesn’t pay her back for every penny he stole. From here the story changes tack. Alex starts a relationship with a friend of his flatmate and Siobhan begins to become obsessed with Alex, initially through interest in writing a novel but eventually through rage, and starts to take revenge on Alex and his new girlfriend. Meanwhile Alex is having to deal with the fact that a friend of the girl who fell from her stairwell is probing into her death and doesn’t believe the police’s version of events that it was accidental. As things wind to a close, Alex gets a few surprises he didn’t expect…

Edwards and Voss do a good job of making Alex come across as sympathetic, even though you know he’s a seriously screwed-up individual. They also do a good job of making Siobhan seem sympathetic in the earlier part of the novel but make her transition to angry stalker later in the story unfold realistically. The technique of narration via the character’s journals gives the story some nice turns and delivers a satisfying twist or two at the end. Killing Cupid is a good solid novel with a few narrative surprises and will give readers a lot of enjoyment. Recommended.