Magnus Mills

I love Magnus Mills’ books.

My friend Owen introduced me to him with All Quiet On The Orient Express. Not much really happens, but the way that “not much” happens and a strange sense of foreboding really grabbed me.

Here’s the synopsis from Wikipedia:

The narrator is spending a few weeks camping in the Lake District before setting out on a motorcycle trip to India. He agrees to help the campsite owner, Tom Parker by performing a simple chore, painting a gate but one thing inexorably leads to another and he finds himself drawn in to a succession of disparate tasks, each more complex and time-consuming and from which there appears to be no escapeā€¦

And a review from The New York Times Book Review that sums it up quite nicely:

“Maybe only the English write books like this. The narrative unwinds slowly. The plot reveals itself in the most deliberate increments. Much is suggested, little explained. Hints of incipient drama along the way lead nowhere in particular. Characters who will eventually become pivotal drift in and out, making scant initial impact. There are strong inklings of an overriding daffiness. Not until the end are readers aware of just what has happened, and even then doubts linger.” – James Polk

I’ve since read The Restraint of Beasts (1998), Three to See the King (2001), and The Scheme for Full Employment (2003); not to mention a second reading of All Quiet On The Orient Express, which I enjoyed just as much as the first time, if not more. (Can you tell I like to read an author’s books chronologically?)

Mills’ other novels and short story collections are on my list of books to read. The only problem is that only his first two books are available in Canada; I bought as many as I could used, online from Englandā€¦ Sigh.

I read Mills first, but his books have the same sort of feeling as Iain Banks novels minus the Mervyn Peake-ish elements.


  1. Quick little paragraphs from The Observer:This Much I Know
  2. And he’s a bus driver!
  3. Wikipedia page for Magnus Mills