Lesley Manville to Star In New PBS Mystery 'Magpie Murders'

Credit: Courtesy of Ben Blackall / © Mammoth Screen 2019

Fans of female detectives have a brand new series to look forward to. Magpie Murders, a new mystery series coming to Masterpiece in the not-too-distant future has cast Lesley Manville (The Crown) in the lead role. Deadline first announced the series back in June of 2020, when PBS boarded the series as co-producer alongside BritBox UK. Peter Cattaneo (The Full Monty) will direct the series.

The series is based on the best-selling novel by Anthony Horowitz, who is best known for the Alex Rider series. TV fans might not recognize the name, but they know his work. Horowitz wrote several installments of Agatha Christie's Poirot before moving to Foyle's War, which he created and wrote most of the episodes. Magpie Murder was one of his first adult books starring a detective of his own invention. (He'd previously also contributed novels to the Sherlock Holmes and James Bond franchises.)

Published in 2016, Magpie Murder is the first of Horowitz's Susan Ryeland novels. (The second, Moonflower Murders, arrived last year.) It is a "mystery within a mystery," beginning when editor Susan Ryeland receives the latest manuscript of her client, mystery author Alan Conway, only to discover it is unfinished and the author dead. The deeper she digs, the more Ryeland realizes that the key to Conway's death is buried in the clues of his final novel. The book took home several awards, including the coveted Macavity Award for Best Novel.

The show's current logline suggests that Magpie Murders could kick-off a multi-series franchise. The current series is slated to run six episodes and will most likely cover only the first book.

Susan Ryeland, an editor who is given an unfinished manuscript of author Alan Conway's latest novel, but has little idea it will change her life.

Along with the casting announcement, Lesley Manville issued a statement saying she couldn't be more thrilled to land the role.

Fans of Anthony Horowitz's highly acclaimed, thrilling novel will be utterly delighted that it is being made into a six-part drama. I could not be happier to be playing Susan Ryeland — what a fabulous character for me to grapple with.

The new series is part of BritBox's first slate of UK originals since its home country launch. The service, a joint project between the BBC and ITV, was initially launched as an American-based service for ex-pats. However, it was also a way to combat ongoing VPN pirating of ITV's streaming service and the BBC iPlayer by those overseas. But the streamer proved so popular at home it launched over there as well, and like any respectable streamer, has joined the original programming derby.

For PBS Masterpiece fans, this is another fabulous actress to add to its slowly expanding roster of female detective stories that currently includes Unforgotten and Miss Scarlet & The Duke.

Magpie Murders does not yet have a release date, but with casting only just getting underway, I estimate it will probably hit the Masterpiece lineup somewhere in 2022.