Haunted Magpie by Anna Nicholas – a mystery set on an idyllic island with a lively detective

Haunted Magpie by Anna Nicholas

Isabel is a well known character on the beautiful island of Mallorca, being a former detective with the police, and now helping her mother run a lettings agency. This is the second book in the Isabel Flores Mallorcan Mystery series, but definitely works as a standalone book which is how I read it. She is in her thirties, and very attached to her pet ferret, Furo. Her close friend, Tolo Cabot, was her old boss, and persuades her to help solve crimes where her local knowledge and immersion in the community of Sant Marti gives her extra leads. As part of her investigations, she drives her memorable little car around the island, recognising the spots made special by family and friends. She enjoys food, and this book is a guide to the local food made lovingly by her mother, cafe chefs and others. Helpfully there is a Glossary of Mallorcan and Spanish words in the front of the novel to help the reader distinguish between a Botifarro (a local pork sausage) and Potaje (soup).  Isabel’s progress is marked by the foodstuffs she consumes, though her active lifestyle stops it being a problem as she tries to discover what really happened to some missing people. Another mystery surrounds the disappearance of various pets on the island, which seem to have been abducted by someone who knows the owners’ habits. Humour and a fluid writing style means that this novel  is easy to read and enjoyable, and I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this charming novel. 

The book opens with the disappearance of Paloma Crespi, a young florist with a troubled past. Angry with her boyfriend, she chooses to walk back home, and meets with a determined attack. Meanwhile, Isabel is volunteering with local school children in the village centre, until the local mayor asks her to investigate the apparent abduction of several pets, including the local police officer’s Alsatian. As it is winter the holiday letting business is less busy, so she agrees to investigate, especially as many in the village are anxious about their own pets. Meanwhile Paloma’s disappearance is causing concern, and Isabel is drafted in to question her uncle and aunt, boyfriend and others. She visits a lot of Paloma’s clients for whom she worked as a freelance florist. The characters of the village and the surrounding area appear and are well described, coming to life in the author’s hands. The descriptions of the settings are well handled, making the island sound very attractive.

This is a very well written book with gentle humour, a lot of food tastefully described, and a strong plot with many entertaining subplots. There is tension and excitement in this extremely well constructed novel. It is a good read constructed around a community in which the main character, Isabel, is obviously well liked. The research is so well done that everything is well blended and impressive. I really enjoyed this book, finding it an easy, flowing read. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a well plotted mystery in a well described setting with hints of comedy, animals and plenty of food!