😀 😀 😀 😀 😀
When stage magician Eli Marks is talked into attending his High School reunion by an old friend, Jake North, he suddenly finds himself entangled in two potentially deadly situations. An up-and-coming actor, Jake is in the middle of shooting a film about a magic trick that went wrong, resulting in the death of the magician. But Jake fears that someone is out to kill him and means to do so during the filming of the trick. So he asks Eli to come along as his magic consultant to make sure no-one can tamper with the trick. Then during the reunion Eli meets up with the girl he had a major crush on at school, the gorgeous Trish Henry. She showed no interest in him back then, but falls into conversation with him now and they spend the evening chatting. It’s something of a pity that she’s married – especially since her husband Dylan had a reputation at school of being one of the bad boys, and doesn’t seem to have improved with time. And when he’s murdered later that same night, Eli finds himself getting sucked into the investigation.
I loved Gaspard’s first book about Eli, The Ambitious Card, and ended my review with the fervent hope that we’d meet him again. I’m delighted to say this book is just as much fun. Eli is a truly likeable protagonist, intelligent and humorous, but with no pretensions to be a superhero. He’s currently single since Megan, his girlfriend from the last book, felt they were rushing things and suggested they take a break. He still wants things to work out with Megan but feels the pull of his old attraction to Trish, especially when she seems to be clinging to him as she tries to cope after her husband’s murder. Other old friends from the previous book put in appearances too. Eli is still living with his elderly uncle Harry, and their relationship is one of the things I like best about the series – it’s realistic and touching without being in any way mawkish, and their interactions provide much of the humour and warmth in the book. Harry’s group of elderly magician friends are fun to spend time with, as well as providing Eli with a great source of information about magic tricks of all kinds. And Franny the phone psychic is back in a minor role, still surprisingly spot-on with some of her predictions.
The plotting in this one is actually better than in the first, I think. The darker strand about Dylan’s murder is beautifully balanced by the more humorous strand about Jake and the film set. Gaspard has had real-life experience of directing low-budget films and clearly had fun sending the process up a little. There’s a whole bunch of slightly caricatured characters, from the harassed director to the embittered writer. And the book is laced with references to great classic films, making me want to go back and re-watch most of them. Overall, this is shaping up to be one of my favourite series – not quite light enough to be cosies, but warm and amusing, and great fun! I hope Mr Gaspard is hard at work on the next one…
NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Henery Press.