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Monday, December 15, 2014

The Magician's Lie by Greer Macallister

The Magician's Lie 

I must admit this novel came as a surprise.  I'm not sure just what I was expecting, but as I read, I felt as if I were listening to Scheherazade.  I was as intent on the story as was the young policeman.

Set in 1905 in Waterloo, Iowa, the beginning didn't really grab me.  Not the style and not the content: Virgil Holt, a young, small town policeman attends a magic show and when the Amazing Arden takes an ax and cuts a man in half, the audience is horrified.  Even after the man emerges, healed and whole, the audience, including Virgil, is still shaken.

When the body of the Amazing Arden's husband is found after the show, it appears that perhaps the illusion was actually a murder.

When Virgil inadvertently runs into the illusionist, he takes her into custody, and using several sets of handcuffs (he fears she may be an escape artist like Houdini), secures her in the jail.  He asks her to tell him of the murder.

Arden asks who was murdered, then denies responsibility.  Each time Virgil presses her to confess and tell him about what happened, Arden resorts to the story of her life.

And this is where I got caught up; not only does the style change drastically, but so does the complexity of the plot.  As Arden tells her story, trying to convince Virgil of her innocence and to persuade him to let her go, the reader is pulled in to a fascinating tale that begins early in Arden's childhood.

Parts are chilling (when Arden speaks of Ray), but all of it is fascinating as Arden explains the remarkable circumstances of her life.  From wealth to struggling to get by, from home to the Biltmore mansion, to New York as a chorus girl, to Vaudeville as a magician's assistant....

There are occasional breaks in which the story returns to the jail and Arden's attempts to convince Virgil, then back to the enthralling story of her life.

All the time, the reader is as unsure as Virgil, wanting to believe in Arden, but uncertain about how much of what she says in true.

Recommended if you want a book with complex characters and a suspenseful plot.  Magic or illusion; truth or lie.

Read in June; blog post scheduled for Dec.  

NetGalley/SOURCEBOOKS, Landmark

Lit. Fiction.  Jan. 1, 2015.  Print length:  320 pages.


  1. Arden's life sounds fascinating. I don't usually like books told in flashbacks, but it sounds like this one is done well. Might have to check it out. :)

    1. It took me a little while to get into this one, but then I couldn't put it down!

  2. I've this one on my reading list. Now I can't wait to read it after reading your review. :)

  3. I hope you enjoy it, Melody. Finding out all about Arden's past became an obsession. :)

  4. Adding this one to my wish list. Arden sounds like a fascinating character.

    1. Arden can spin a tale, and the reader gets as wrapped up in her narrative as Virgil does. Truth or lie?