Of Magpies and Men – Book Review

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Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

“How does the saying go again? One’s for sorrow. Two’s for joy…”

I would say I’m a little speechless, but I have just written a pretty lengthy review for Ode Ray’s debut! This book is packed with just about everything I love in a book, both in genre and overall plot, and I just know it will soon be loved by so many others. I’m so happy to be taking part in my book club’s first ever blog tour, and what a book it was! Please check out the reviews from all our lovely reviewers over the coming week!

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 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.

The beginning

Straight away, the author’s tone of voice drew me in spectacularly, and each sentence was an absolute joy to experience. The way the author incorporated a serious tone with the odd humourous comment was brilliant, especially in the prologue. We learn of a brutal incident straight away, where two corpses are washed ashore. We don’t know anything about them at this point, but I just knew I needed to know what happened here. Why had these two characters met the same sticky end? And why was it all such a huge mystery? I loved how that was all we were allowed to know, and as soon as Chapter 1 started, my brain was already working hard to come up with some sort of theory! The other characters we’re introduced to at the start of the book, Benedict and Marie, both have very different lives; one incredibly wealthy, the other a struggling nurse and mum with a kind heart. I loved how these two opposite characters would soon be linked together in some way and I couldn’t wait to find out more about them!

Marie and Médélice were brilliant characters – their friendship was a fun one to read and I really felt as though I got their relationship. Their personalities instantly shine through and make them likeable and genuine people. The perfect description of a range of characters, places and situations made the book so easy to get lost in. I loved how much time we take to get to know each significant character, and I don’t think many books explore this in as much detail as this one does! I felt this was needed in a book of this nature, and by knowing so much so soon, I felt 100% ready for what the rest of the book threw at me. I knew this book wouldn’t be all fun and games for these characters and I was dying to know how everything tied back to that first chapter! We alternate between Benedict and Marie’s lives seven years before those corpses washed up ashore, and, even though some of the things we learn are quite saddening, I felt all these things would impact the characters’ actions in the future.

“Romain eventually nodded… Neither he nor his mother could have foreseen how grim this situation would eventually turn.”

When Benedict finds an envelope with his name on after his mother’s sudden death, I just knew this was where the real excitement in the story would begin. It was here where we begin to go back and forth from seven years before the discovery of the corpses, to the present day. I loved hearing more about those corpses (as grim as it sounds) but just knowing that progress was being made on this investigation was enough to make my inner detective wannabe squeal with delight! As Benedict loses his mother, Marie is reunited with her own (much to her disapproval initially) and even has her to stay with herself and Romain, her son. We begin to get little hints of something mysterious from the author at this point, but she wasn’t giving anything away too soon! The pace is a little drawn out from what I expected it to be and maybe a little too much for some, but I personally really liked how many things made me curious and just how this built the tension for what was to come. The detail in this book is phenomenal!

Benedict’s mother’s letter reveals some pretty shocking news about Benedict himself, and I didn’t expect just how this would affect him and his life from this point onwards. It doesn’t take long before he seeks the help of a private investigator to work with him to find a significant person linked to his life, someone he never knew existed before his mother’s confession in that letter. I thought this was such a great route to take with endless possibilities, and I knew the author would really use this detail to her advantage. Where the plot would go from here, I didn’t have a clue (which I loved!) and I was dying to see where these characters are taken in the middle of the story. The opening to the book was brilliant, with enough mystery and a unique sense of fun and charm to suit so many different readers. It sat so well with me and I found it to be unlike any other book I’ve read. Both Benedict and and Marie are likeable in their own ways and have very different traits, but I couldn’t help but wonder just how they’re connected and if they’d ever meet one another.

The middle

Giandomenico was a brilliant character, and I loved just how he seemed to help me connect a lot of dots. I loved hearing all about his work prior to the recent investigation of the corpses, and we can really build up a picture of him in our minds. As with all the characters we’ve met, the author has developed them with such precision and immense attention to detail that it’s quite surreal – they seem like real people, something many authors struggle with. Giandomenico was also very crucial character, something that we’d realise very soon! The author’s consistency in each character’s point of view was brilliant and we seem to effortlessly visit each character’s story without losing track of time or place, something that must had taken some effort! The author’s humour had me in fits of giggles at times too – who knew you could make a book like this to be so funny, yet so serious at the same time? I loved every feeling I got from this book, and there was no sign of these feelings slowing down any time soon.

When I started this book, I had it in my head that it would be a full on crime/mystery book. That I’d be on the hunt for a murder and trying to come up with a theory in my head all the way through for who killed two people and why they washed ashore that day. However, the more I read, the more I understood just how much deeper it was than that. We explore romantic relationships of all kinds, family drama that keeps you hooked and curious, not to mention the suspense of all these things combined. The crossover of all these genres makes the book so much more memorable and something that you could probably read through a second time and get something completely different out of it! The storyline is so diverse and each scene keeps you hooked and eager for more. With so much left to learn, I was dying to know the direction the characters I already loved would travel in, and I hoped we’d finally uncover the truth about those bodies. Although, I wasn’t sure exactly how this book could get any more perfect!

“At one point, Benedict’s hairy taxi driver, repeatedly yelled ‘rhmm rhmm rhmm’ at a woman, making precisely the sort of sound one would expect a chubby child to emit while eating chicken nuggets.”

Benedict hunts for his real family, something important to him and exciting for us as readers to experience. I loved his journey and all the quirky characters he meets along the way, and again, the humour was absolutely spot on. We also finally see something I wanted to see all along – how Benedict and Marie meet! I didn’t expect the news we’re hit with, but it made the storyline even more juicy and made me eager to find out what they had in common, and exactly where they’d go from here. They get to know each other further and we also learn new things about the pair that we didn’t before. I knew this relationship would be important and I loved looking back at all the parts of the book that brought these two characters together. It’s been cleverly written with focus in all the right places, and again, each scene is just a joy to experience. With Benedict continually unsure of his sexuality, his thoughts were interesting to experience – what exactly is it that he wants? And has he unknowingly already found it?

I loved how the author spends time and focus on some of the other characters we meet to further enhance our knowledge – I enjoyed hearing about Yukinobu in his younger days and just how Benedict’s feelings for him escalate, even if they are confusing as hell for him to get his head around. There was also another character, Gabin, a school mate of Romain’s that I felt I needed to keep an eye on. He was a little creepy to me and I needed to know why! Were we getting closer to what happened to those two corpses? Would their identities be revealed and shock us? The author forces us to question the ending of the book and I loved how this built up a little tension. The middle of the story is packed with deep and complex information about a number of characters and their busy and eventful lives, with each bit of information so crucial to how we view others, make assumptions and theorise about how the ending of the book will play out. Such a really great part of the story to sink your teeth into!

The end

Marie and Romain travel to the UK to meet Benedict, where he has some very important news to deliver – this could change so much for them and their future! However, despite all the excitement, we’re also hit with a bombshell that even made me feel so upset and gutted. As expected, the author handled this change in scene perfectly, and she sure does know how to capture her readers’ emotions! There is so much to take in for all the characters involved, and even for readers too, but these scenes are approached delicately and with immense talent and professionalism from the author. To be able to write in such varied ways is an immense skill, one that has most certainly served her well in her debut novel. Benedict is also fighting his own battles – he’s beginning to understand and accept his sexual orientation, but his desire for children is overpowering. I loved all these aspects to the ending of the book, and they’re explored exceptionally well.

I loved the timelines of the book up to now, but we’re hit with yet another one – Romain as a 13-year-old boy. We learn more about the type of person Gabin is, and it turns out that he’s a bit of a bully. Romain begins to stick up for himself, but I felt like his actions here would come back to haunt him later on. We also join Marie and Benedict as they discuss his sexuality and his need for children, and exactly how Marie can help him solve this issue. I loved seeing their relationship blossom and just how the family bond is explored in the book, and their sibling love had grown so beautifully in the time they’d found one another. I found myself rooting for Benedict and Yukinobu, desperate for them to make things work and live an open life with love and happiness, no matter what anyone else thought – that was the most important thing. I could feel the book was coming to an end, but there was still important questions to be answered…

“Benedict had learned something profound about who he was. When it came to his family, his wants would always come after their needs.”

As we approach the final few chapters of the book, things get a little bit dark which worried me, especially after things had been going so well with Marie and Benedict. I could sense something wasn’t right, and I had a horrible feeling that it would have have something to do with Marie’s father after he learns he has a son that he doesn’t want to accept. I had my own theory in my head for how the next few pages would go, and part of me hoped I’d be wrong – I’d come to love Marie and Benedict, even Romain and Yukinobu, and I couldn’t bear to see them suffer any pain. I found myself questioning characters more, asking myself whether I thought they could cause any harm and their reasons for doing so. I just knew we’d get some answers about that first chapter very soon – I just hoped the two corpses didn’t turn out to be some of my favourites!

The ending of the book was incredibly impressive and it connects so many issues and people that we’ve met along the way. The author has delivered this flawlessly, capturing all my emotions in a way I never expected. The shock and the horror combined to create one of the best, most memorable endings I’ve ever read, and I’m writing this with tears still in my eyes! Even though we see immense strength from certain characters, we also see some of their weaknesses, and learn of certain information from that past that made my anger boil up inside! If you don’t feel like these characters are your family by the end, then there is something seriously wrong! This book is 100% a five star read, and I can’t wait to experience it all over again (when my ever growing TBR list evens out a little…)

Overall thoughts

This book was everything I never thought it would be, but my god, it was amazing! As potentially one of the most in-depth and involving books I’ve ever read, I was so drawn into the story, so involved with the characters and so incredibly shocked and saddened by the ending that it left me with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. The author has gone above all my expectations and delivered a debut novel with charm and wit, but at the same time, with a beautiful and dangerous story to devour too. This story has a little bit of everything for lovers of crime and mystery, to drama and romance. It really is the perfect recipe for a remarkable novel!

Thanks so much to the author, Ode Ray, for the copy of this book to read and review! You can purchase your own copy of Of Magpies and Men over on Amazon, available on Kindle and in paperback. Make sure you’re following the author over on Twitter and Instagram for more updates!

Looking for book reviews?

If you’re in need of reviews for your own book, do get in touch to get on my submissions list! All the information you need is on my book reviews page.

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