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The Magpie -bookcover

By: Gary Toward

The Magpie

Pages: 169 Ratings: 4.7
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It is December 1913 and Detective Constable Frank Bolam has a murder to solve. The victim is found drowned in the River Wear with a vicious knife wound to his lower back. There are no witnesses and no clues.A few months later another body is found with the same vicious knife wound, followed closely by a further two murders with the victims stabbed in a similar manner. This is a clever killer. No clues are found and Bolam cannot find a way to break the deadlock in his most perplexing case.Having risen from a lowly mining family, Bolam has strong moral values and becomes totally obsessed with the killer and the devastating sadness brought to the victims’ relatives. He vows to bring the murderer to justice, whatever the cost.These are turbulent times, with the country in the middle of an attritional war. In his quest to find the murderer, Bolam follows his hunch and enlists in the army, heading for the trenches to track down a cold-blooded killer in the middle of the most mechanised slaughter the world has known.

Gary taught for over 33 years in 6 schools, leading three as head teacher. His passion for WW1 began when, with colleagues, he developed educational visits to Ypres.  Now a key note speaker and educational trainer, he is co author of four successful books for teachers. He is married with two grown up children.


My personal interests???  Sport, mountaineering, football, cycling???


Passions...brilliant education for all.


Customer Reviews
26 reviews
26 reviews
  • Chris Henley

    Gary Toward has come up with a real page turner. From the opening pages right through to the conclusion, I was gripped by the twists and turns of the story as it unfolds. A really good read from a master storyteller.

  • Peter Balderstone

    I saw this being talked about on Twitter and thought I'd take a punt. I'm glad I did. I like crime and I like history, so this is an ideal book for me. I love the way Gary Toward has taken the time to do his research and to keep the book accurate to the times. His characters are believable and the book is a great read, with the pages turning quickly. I read the book in two sittings as it kept me interested and keen to know what was going to happen next. The ending took me totally by surprise.

  • Alec

    Gary Toward’s visit was very useful because it taught me different writing techniques, some of which I never knew about. He also taught us all about a soldier called Valentine Joe Strudwick and how he died at the young age of 15. Another thing I learned is that Churchill is not a dog that sells insurance.

  • Alicia

    My favourite aspects of the novel was Frank Bolam as he showed a lot of courage and determination, also when Arnold and Frank fight as it was detailed and put me on the edge of my seat. The novel showed just how awful war was and the amount of men who had to fight in muddy, diseased trenches and the horrific sights that traumatised them.
    I’ve learned that Winston Churchill also helped and fought in WW1 as well as WW2.
    I would recommend the book to others, especially my Uncle as he likes crime and murder mystery novels and I feel like he would enjoy it too.
    I thought that it was a good, detailed book and I loved every bit of it.

  • Anaya

    My favourite aspects of the novel were the amount of detailed description that created images in my head and the plot twists that made the novel much more interesting. I learned about the struggles of WW1 and facts about it as well. I have learned what John McCrae was doing during WW1 and I have also learned about combat and the trenches. I would recommend this book because it has a lot of interesting history and a good storyline I thought it was very interesting and was different from what I usually read. I also think that the ending was very powerful as well.

  • Courtney

    I really enjoyed the genre of the novel and I learned a lot about WW1 that I didn’t already know, for example, I learned about the front line and the journey to the war. I also found out that if you didn’t go to war and you were a male, 19 or over, you would be given a white feather which is the symbol of being a coward.
    My favourite part of the novel was when we found out who the murderer was because it was building up a lot of tension to find out it was someone we didn’t expect at all. If I would recommend it to anyone I would certainly recommend it to my grandad because he loves reading and watching murderer or war genres and I feel like he would love this book.

  • Fatima

    I enjoyed Gary’s visit.
    My favourite part of the visit was when we were asking questions because I got to know more about his life, the way he writes, inspiration for the book and the little details in the backstory.
    The most interesting part was when we got to see all the amazing old artefacts from the war. My favourite one was the gun or the grenade (Mills bomb).
    I learnt about poetry and many more facts about World War One. I learnt that you should write about what you know. All in all, his visit was very enjoyable and he taught me a lot about his book, World War One and English literature in general.

  • Areeba

    Gary Toward’s visit was very useful. Because, when we were identifying techniques, I found new techniques and meaning I never knew. He also told us about Valentine Joe Strudwick and that he fought in the war at such a young age and made us thank Joe for putting his life at risk serving the country.
    His speech was very inspirational and even if someone tells you ‘you’re dumb ‘or ‘you can’t do it’ you need to prove them wrong. His English teacher said, ‘You’re rubbish at English,’ and he proved him wrong and that inspires me a lot.

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