I shuffled the cards one last time, and then spread all the cards face down across the table in front of me. “Grey, could I bother you to lend me your blindfold? And your letter opener – that wickedly sharp one you used earlier?”
When Eli Marks participates in a televised Halloween event to debunk the act of a famous psychic, he doesn’t expect to become part of a murder investigation. But the next morning, all eyes are on Eli when the psychic’s body is found with a bloody King of Diamonds playing card – the very card Eli used the night before to perform the Ambitious Card trick for the audience.
As more bodies turn up, each with their own King card, Eli becomes the prime suspect. To clear his name, he begins his own investigation into the world of psychics. When the killer sets sights on him, though, Eli will need more than magic to escape alive. He’ll need a miracle.
YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
- The People in Eli’s World –Gaspard has a knack for creating memorable characters, especially eccentric ones driven by entertaining desires. These include the psychic that owns a record store/aura photo studio; a realtor that wants to use magic tricks to impress his clients; and a group of aged magicians that meet regularly for card games at the bar. Every character feels real, rounded out with interesting quirks and hidden faults. Three standouts here are Franny and Arianna, both psychics, and Eli’s Uncle Harry.
- Chicago Magic – Uncle Harry’s magic shop is loaded with all sorts of nifty sounding magic tricks and props. And the way Uncle Harry runs his business, with policies such as not selling a customer a more difficult trick until he has mastered the one he previously purchased, is amusing.
- The Dimes – This small, but sweet, subplot focuses on Uncle Harry and the mysterious dimes that he keeps finding. It’s a lovely way to bring Aunt Alice into the story and provide closure for the still grieving Harry.
- The Mystery – There are enough twists in this mystery to keep the reader guessing whodunit until Gaspard chooses to reveal the culprit. The clues are strong, the red herrings are plenty, and the solution is solid. More importantly, Gaspard’s writing is fluid and effectively pulls the reader deeper into the story. This is a well-plotted mystery with deft touches of action and humor that can easily be read in one sitting.
YOU MIGHT NOT ENJOY:
- The Love Interest – Eli and his one-sided crush are sweet for the first 1/3 of the novel. I kind of wish it had stayed that way: unrequited. This would have given the characters time to build a relationship that felt organic, with a natural progression to romance. Instead, Megan’s interest in Eli goes from 0 to 100 in a millisecond without explanation. Sure, she might have quietly been crushing on Eli for a long time and suddenly decided to go for it, but the transition from polite acquaintances to unapologetic lovers (since she is technically still married) is awkward.
- The Ex-Wife’s New Husband – Eli’s disdain for Homicide Detective Fred Hutton is understandable; the detective’s hatred for Eli, not so much. Fred’s one goal in life seems to be to arrest Eli for anything, no matter how circumstantial the evidence. But why? Beyond Eli being Deidre’s first husband, specific reasons are not provided; it’s possible that, if his character is explored more as the series progresses, the answers will slowly be revealed and Fred will become an interesting and complex character. Unfortunately for this outing, he’s just an angry cop with no depth and no purpose but to antagonize the protagonist.
Absolutely. This is a fun mystery with a swiftly moving plot, engaging characters, and a very satisfying conclusion.
This is the first in the Eli Marks mystery series. A second novel, The Bullet Catch, was just released in November. Author John Gaspard has experience in both directing films (six low-budget features) and writing for TV and the stage. Perhaps because of this, the novel has a cinematic feel to it that I really enjoyed.