When magician and skeptic* Eli Marks debunks the spiritualist act of Grey (‘just Grey’) he is unknowingly setting himself up to be chief suspect when Grey turns up murdered. The situation isn’t helped by the fact that the detective in charge of the case is Eli’s ex-wife’s new husband (still with me?) and there’s little love lost between the two men. And when more psychics are bumped off, each being found with a King of Diamonds on them, it seems clear to Detective Hutton that Eli must be involved since this was the card he used in his Ambitious Card routine. So it looks like Eli will have to find the real murderer to get himself off the hook…
This is a hugely entertaining crime novel, packed full of comedy. Sometimes when an author goes for fun, it can be at the expense of plot or characterisation, but not here. Gaspard has created a very likeable protagonist in Eli, who is the first person narrator, and a complete cast of rather eccentric magicians and psychics amongst the victims and suspects. Eli’s relationship with his recently widowed uncle is believable and touching, and the interactions between them add much to the humour and warmth of the book. The plot is complex enough to have kept me guessing to the end but looking back the clues were there, so a ‘fair play’ novel.
What makes this extra special though is the magic. Eli talks us through various tricks without breaking the code of the magician not to reveal the secrets. This sounds like it might be annoying, but it isn’t – it’s like watching a really good stage magician at work. At one point he plays a trick on a character in a way that allows the reader to play along too – and stunningly he manages to read the reader’s mind! (OK, I did work out how that was done after the event, but it was a ‘Wow!’ moment at the time!) I was amazed to discover from the afterward that Gaspard is not a magician in real life – I was convinced he must be.
I have no idea whether the author intends this to be a standalone or the start of a series, but I really hope it’s the latter. Warm, funny and well plotted – a book to brighten any grey day. Do read it!
*Not my fault – that’s how Americans spell it!
NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Henery Press.