The Magician’s Lie (October 2015) is a spellbinding historical fiction debut about a female illusionist who is accused of murder. Found fleeing the scene of the crime, she is captured and interrogated by a local policeman. The dialog, setting, and historical content of this novel make for a very intriguing and atmospheric read.
An absorbing first chapter immediately draws the reader into 1905 Iowa, following the performance of a female magician known as Amazing Arden. With intriguing eyes (one completely blue and the other half-brown), her physical appearance is just one way that adds to her allure as a master illusionist. A prime suspect for her husband’s murder, Officer Virgil Holt apprehends her and interrogates her, raising more questions than answers. What is real? What is illusion?
The Magician’s Lie is a mesmerizing, quick read. Chapters switch from present to past (1890s), allowing the reader to learn about both the officer’s story as well as Arden’s. Although the magician is at the center of this novel, the officer plays an important role as well. Officer Holt urges Arden to confess to the murder of her husband but she pleads her innocence and demands he allow her to tell her story. My favorite chapters involved Arden’s flashbacks to her life’s story. As I flipped the pages, I couldn’t help but wonder if she was spinning a tall tale or sharing her deepest secrets.
A well-written novel, The Magician’s Lie reads as though by a writer established in this genre. The only weakness for this debut novelist was her command of the plot. Although there were points where the plot unraveled a bit, it did not impact my overall enjoyment of the novel. There were plenty of twists and turns, the last quarter of the novel especially had some unexpected revelations that were quite marvelous.
I highly recommend this novel to historical fiction fans as well as book clubs. Macallister is an author to watch!
Reviewed by Libby Bridges
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