This is a spoiler-free review.
Of Magpies and Men by Ode Ray
Expected publication February 2nd, 2021.
Can any good come of longings that a person can never satisfy? If so, good for whom?
Two corpses wash ashore in a picturesque Italian village, the violence that put them there is bound to a long held secret and two strangers living worlds apart with seemingly nothing in common.
Benedict Grant a high achiever, wealthy Londoner, leading a lonely life.
Marie Boulanger a nurse and single mum, struggling to make ends meet in Marseille.
However, a mother’s illicit revelation will set in motion a chain of events that will reshape their identities, stir poignant family affairs and delve into the by-products of lawless decisions.
Discover a captivating and moving story of impossible yearnings, weaving mystery, drama and romance peppered with humour. A tale that will stay with you long after its final page and a twist you won’t see coming.
Content Warnings: homophobia, violence, drug addiction
Thank you to the author, Ode Ray, for providing me with an e-ARC of this book. All thoughts are my own.
This novel starts with two bodies washing up on the shore a small, Italian village. But how did they get there? As the clues get uncovered, it appears as though there may have been some foul play involved…
Taking place across multiple timelines, Of Magpies and Men tells the story of Benedict Grant, a lonely, workaholic, living a picture-perfect life that feels like a lie, and Marie Boulanger, a loving and hardworking, single mother who can’t seem to escape poverty. While it seems as if their lives couldn’t be more separate, when a long kept secret is finally revealed, they inexplicably find their fates barreling towards each other.
Told from mainly Benedict’s and Marie’s perspectives, with a few others thrown in along the way, Of Magpies and Men weaves a complicated tale that spans years, with unanticipated consequences lurking around every corner.
After starting this novel, I can honestly say I had no clue where it was headed. Advertised as a ‘domestic thriller’ – a concept that immediately gripped me – Of Magpies and Men had all the makings of a book I hoped to love. Unfortunately, there were a few key elements that hindered me from enjoying it as much as I wanted to.
The premise itself is an absolutely fabulous one – very intriguing! However, the writing style made it difficult for me to get into this book right away.
Firstly, the perspective was a little choppy, and would switch from third person to second person unexpectedly (a lot of ‘you knows,’ added onto the end of sentences.) Secondly, I found the narrative to be both too descriptive at certain times, and not descriptive enough at others. There were multiple moments when I felt like the setting was described in such detail I almost lost sight of what was happening there, and yet, I longed for more of an explanation at certain plot points; (when Benedict’s best friend seems to drop him completely out of the blue, for example.)
All this to say, that I found myself growing used to the narrative style as I read, and became more drawn into the story as it went along. And Ray definitely knows how to keep you guessing!
This story is both plot- and character-driven. Though for me at least, the plot was my driving factor to complete it. I didn’t really like many of the characters, and because of this I found it hard to connect with or care about them very much. I just felt like a lot of their motives and reasoning behind their actions didn’t make a lot of sense to me, which made it hard for me to sympathize with them. Sometimes the revelations that were meant to be the solution to their problems left me scratching my head in confusion.
The plot however, was full of twists and turns, and every time I thought I was loosing interest, a new revelation or cliffhanger was revealed and reeled me back in for more.
The last thing that I’m going to be picky about is the 5-6 year time jump near the middle of the story. I just felt like nothing progressed in the characters’ lives between the two time points. They were all pretty much in the exact same position, just 5+ years older. (Something I found a little hard to believe regarding Benedict’s situation in particular.) So, it made me question why there even was a time jump at all. Or, one so long at the very least.
Nevertheless, my critiques aside, Of Magpies and Men has a lot of potential and an intriguing premise. The plot is complex, with a lot of different elements taking place at once, and one crazy intense climax. For me, however, the execution in places just fell a little flat.
Do you want to read this book?
What novels would you classify as “domestic thrillers”?