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Dear Ann,

I’m a little embarrassed to admit how excited I was to see a new Masterpiece Mystery series pop up on my PBS Passport app.

It’s a cozy mystery, a crime-fiction genre for which I have mixed feelings. I love Miss Marple, of course—Agatha Christie is our forever queen of the cozy, and my fondness for Rosemary & Thyme is absolute. (Big Linen Shirt-wearing garden designers? I am ALL IN.)

But some of the long-running cozies—which I won’t name here because the people who love them also know lots of super sneaky ways to silence a person permanently—leave me cold. They are often set in a parallel universe in which everyone is in late middle age, living in a well-appointed manor or cottage in a fictional English village, and having a tweedy and tasteful life, and I just cannot relate.

(OK, come at me with your melting ice daggers: yes, I’m talking about Midsomer Murders. It’s just too dang cozy for me, ok? Is that a crime?)

Cue up your local PBS schedule and watch Magpie Murders, adapted from his book by author and screenwriter Anthony Horowitz. It’s witty and fun, and the cast—starring the magnificent Lesley Manville as our amateur sleuth—is excellent. It’s a 1950s mystery wrapped in a 2020s mystery, about a mystery writer.

Manville’s character, Susan Ryeland, is a big-city editor who’s dragged into the story in an effort to save her company and career. She’s a stylish woman of a certain age, opinionated, funny, and sexy—this ain’t Rosemary & Thyme. I see more mysteries ahead for her, if only someone else in her world will conveniently drop dead under unexplained circumstances.

Bonus treats: London street scenes and interiors of the present, and a Suffolk village in the 1950s. Everything is beautiful and richly detailed, and there are lots of people and scenes that figure in the story lines of both the past and the present. I have a feeling it’s going to get really complicated, so: garter stitch advisory is in effect.

Grab your knitting and enjoy.




  • Thank you Kay, I have not jumped in to this one yet!

  • I think you have to regard Midsomer as a revenge fantasy: awful Tory-voting, Brexit-supporting wealthy people get bumped off in creative ways. And of course Anthony Horowitz was one of the early writers for MM! But Magpie Murders is excellent, and there’s a second book in the series.

    • The second novel is out Moonflower Mysterious. Equally as good if not better then Magpie now that the format is known. Cheeky

    • Got it in one. I love the tongue in cheek-ness of Midsomer murders.

  • I loved the first episode and agree with you on the series compared to some of the older ones.

  • If you want more Leslie Manville, catch her in the wonderful fantasy Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris. Bonus sure to be appreciated by this crowd: magnificent Dior fashions.

    • I’ve loved Lesley Manville ever since I saw her in Topsy Turvy (1999), which is on my (and the spouse’s) all-time favorite movie list. Highly recommended!

      • I love Topsy Turvy. It has been impossible to find.

        • It’s on HBOMax.

        • We watched just last month on some US streaming service, though now I don’t remember which one. Also, a few years ago we were finally able to find it on a Blu-ray dvd issued by Criterion, I hope you’ll be able to see it again, one way or another.

    • That was a truly happy movie. And the couture…WOW!

    • I also loved her in the series “Mum”, which I think is still available on Britbox or PBS.

      • Yes, MUM – she is wonderful in that! And the scripts and all the other actors skate quiet circles round ordinary sitcoms – clueless and petty then funny and sad and back again all in a minute or 2.

    • Loved that one!

  • I absolutely adore those books and had no idea they were being made into tv. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I believe I will get my Christmas knitting done!

  • Where’s DC? Doesn’t he usually advise us on what to knit to?

    Not that I don’t trust Ann’s suggestions….

    • The OG Knit-to-This columnist is Kay, though she’s put us in capable hands with DG.

  • So glad I got up early, saw your email, and started my Saturday with knitting and a murder mystery, thanks!! 🙂

  • I bought that book years ago in an airport, knowing nothing about it, but desperate for something to read. And it turned out to be really enjoyable! I love finding books like that. And Leslie Manville is two thumbs up for me. Looking forward to watching.

    • Watched the first episode and I am loving it already. I happen to be rewatching all the Rosemary and Thyme episodes on Britbox at the moment. P.S. I adore MM!
      Have you watched the Phryne Fisher Murder Mysteries? They are superb.

  • My Sunday evenings have been spent with Masterpiece even before the original ‘Upstairs, Downstairs.’

    PBS put this out for Lesley Manville today:

    I’d be lost without British dramas and BritComs … Bare With..

  • I enjoyed the book, and I’ve been looking forward to the TV version.

  • So wonderful to know another fan of all these mysteries. Hurrah!

  • I actually squealed when I heard they were making a series from this book! I loved the book and could immediately see how great the series could be – and they’ve nailed it – it’s marvelous!!!

  • I remember being very confused when I started the book but loved the story and the creative concept (once I figured it out). Thanks for the heads-up, I can’t wait to see it!

  • Anthony Horowitz is brilliant. This series with Susan Ryeland is great but the other series featuring Horowitz himself as a bumbling Watson-like character to the detective Daniel Hawthorne is my favorite.

    I recommend the audiobooks- two in the Ryeland-Pünd series and three in the Hawthorne-Horowitz so far.

  • Love the “garter stitch advisory is in effect” warning!

  • Love Rosemary and Thyme! Keep waiting for more episodes to show up, but not holding my breath. McDonald and Dobbs is another thumbs up.

    • Isn’t it wonderful? And a feel good ending most times.

  • Garter stitch advisory means it’s time to dust off my temperature blanket. Picking back up with March!

  • Loved Rosemary and Thyme and also long for more episodes. Also Agatha Raisin. Thanks for a suggestion to add to my repertoire!

  • I had a hard time getting interested in midsummer murders. So I started watching it from latest episodes to earliest. That did the trick. I was hooked.

  • I also love Miss Scarlet and the Duke that is on PBS.

  • Disappointing first episode. Love Leslie Manville’s acting and Anthony Horowitz’s writing, but this doesn’t quite hit the mark. Poor ol’ Leslie took her
    coat off too many times not to be noticed.
    Have you watched The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe? It’s well done, in my opinion.

  • I can’t wait to begin this one! Love Masterpiece Mysteries.

  • I agree with you on Midsomer Murders.

    • What a wonderful discovery! I had no idea there were so many good ideas and recommendations on this site for books and tv series. I am looking forward to watching Magpie Murders—even reading the book(s). I’m sure I will enjoy them—even though I seem to be the only one who enjoys Midsomer Murders. Thank you all for your good suggestions.

      • I have watched Midsomer Murders in its entirety at least three times over the years.I adore John Nettles. Have you seen him as Bergerac? Those were fun to watch as well.

        • So good to hear that I’m not alone . I did enjoy Magpie Murders last night. It was especially nice because I have. 34 year background in publishing. It was interesting to see it start at the Frankburg Book Fair, a great event.

      • You’re not the only one

  • I watched the first episode last Sunday and I’m absolutely hooked. Magpie Murders is intriguing and rich in details. Masterpiece never fails to be the best in storytelling.

  • Ooooh! I loved the books so I can’t wait to see the series!

  • Big fan of the book, but since I can’t remember the details, I’ll be surprised by the production!

  • Thanks. I watched the first episode this past Sunday on my local PBS station. It was good. I also watched Annika with Nicole Walker. She’s one of my favorite actresses. She’s been in several series that I like. She always plays detectives that are dogged in their determination to solve a crime and balance a family life.

  • Thanks have to try it. Am a Rosemary & Thyme fan too.
    Not so much MM!

  • Hmmm. Read the book with high hopes which weren’t quite met and told sister to continue on her Inspector Gamache trail. It will probably make a great series because his series are usually great. Love her too. Thanks for the Rosemary and Thyme hint.

    Right now our end of night viewing is Shakespeare and Hathaway. Set in the fabulous Stratford upon Avon. It’s funny and sweet and always leaves a good taste in one’s mouth before bedtime. Highly recommend.

    • I listen to the Gamache audio books while knitting. I enjoy the series and hope it makes to a tv series some day.

      • It is coming soon on Amazon Prime! The exact date should be announced soon.

        • That’s good news. Thank you. I’ll keep my eye out.

  • Kay, I’m ahead of you! I’ve watched the 1st episode and even my husband enjoyed it. I am hooked on British murder mysteries. They seem so much more sophisticated and gentle. Looking forward to the next episode!

  • Looking forward to watching this on Sunday. The audiobook with Samantha Bond and Allan Corduner is fabulous. As with most movies and TV series, I’m always glad I read the book first.

  • Loved Mrs. Harris. Both book and really delightful movie. Still loving Midsomer even after the sad departure of John Nettles. So shoot me. (Then revive me for Magpie Murders…unable to watch right now but when opportunity returns, will be there.). Chloe

  • A dagger to my heart that you don’t adore Barnaby. You and I agree on so much. But I have begun the Magpie book and the series simultaneously. Both wonderful!

  • It’s not a TV series but if you haven’t read the Thursday Murder Club series by Richard Osmand you need to now. It’s about 5 seniors living in a retirement community and the Murders they solve. One of the women was MI-6 or 5. We aren’t sure. It’s clever and funny and British.

  • Thanks so much, Kay, for recommending this show! I watched the first episode yesterday while knitting, and I agree totally that the experience was delightful!

  • I laughed at your comment about certain Cozy mysteries, especially Midsummer Murders. The “melting daggers” really set off laughter. May I use that? :). We are enjoying Magpie Murders, and my husband actually does not doze off when watching that mystery (he’s great about watching tv with my choices because then I don’t complain about FOOTBALL GAMES ALL IN A ROW ON A WEEKEND!!! I go out with friends and, well, knit and spin.)

  • I pulled Magpie Murders out of my Little Free Library a couple years ago and it sat unread on my TBR shelf–who am I kidding, it’s a TBR bookcase-plus–until this summer, when I heard a Masterpiece adaptation was coming. I loved how clever it was and am hoping to watch soon. I just have to finish up Under the Banner of Heaven first.

  • I’m watching Magpie Murders now, thank you for the rec.! (I’m a huge fan of Foyle’s War , who isn’t??? so I had to tune in.)
    It’s very good indeed.
    I came back here to see the many comments about the SWEATERS in this series … and there isn’t a one! So. I’ll just say…there are GORGEOUS SWEATERS!

    • Yep, it’s almost but not quite as good as the series Shetland was for sweater-spotting. It’s a different kind of sweater-spotting but still v.g. sweater eye candy because you get both vintage vests AND modern designs.

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