The Magician’s Lie, by Greer Macallister
Genre: Historical fiction
Published: April 2017, Legends Press
In a nutshell
This book absolutely blew me away.
What it’s about
The Amazing Arden is the most famous female illusionist of her day, renowned for her notorious trick of sawing a man in half on stage. But one night she swaps her trademark saw for an axe.
When Arden’s husband is found dead later that night, the answer seems clear, most of all to young policeman Virgil Holt. *
It’s 1905 in a small town called Janesville. Virgil takes Arden back to the police station and spends the night trying to persuade her to confess. What follows is a Scheherazade-style to-and-fro.
Virgil’s livelihood depends on being able to extract a confession. Arden’s life depends on persuading him of her innocence.
Over the course of a single night Arden weaves the magical tale of her life story. Virgil must decide whether he believes her tale and whether he should release her or turn her over to his superiors.
If found guilty, she will be hanged.
What I thought of it
It’s less what I thought of it and more about how it made me feel. I read so many books that usually I analyse as I go and can see what the author is trying to do, and how.
Greer Macallister, however, completely sucked me in with The Magician’s Lie.
I spent the first third of the book feeling a little restless. I didn’t really believe Arden, I felt it was obvious that she was an unreliable narrator and I was struggling to see the point of her meandering narrative of the early years of her life.
Somewhere around the halfway point I became completely invested and just could not stop reading. I had to know what happened. Which is much the same way I suspect Virgil would have felt, sitting in that dark police station listening to Arden tell her story.
The ending was perfect and not something I saw coming until the last few dozen pages. Looking back, though, there were clues and it seemed almost obvious.
Sort of like a magician’s illusion, really.
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* From the official publisher blurb.