The Miser’s Dream (Eli Marks 3) by John Gaspard

the miser's dreamAs if by magic…

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

From the window of his bedroom, Eli can see into the projectionist’s booth of the nearby movie theatre, and often watches the flickering lights to see if he can work out what movie is showing. But one evening what he sees is a body lying motionless on the floor. When the police arrive, they find all the elements of a classic ‘locked room’ mystery. The projectionist lies dead with the murder weapon nearby, but the door is locked on the inside, the window is tiny and barred, and the gaps through which the films are projected are too small for anyone to get through. They also find an empty film can…

I love this series. Eli is a great character – a stage magician with a fun sense of humour, who’s always getting mixed up in murders either through his job or because of his connection to his ex-wife, the delightfully named Assistant District Attorney Deirdre Sutton-Hutton and her new husband, Homicide Detective Fred Hutton. Eli’s back together with his girlfriend Megan, the psychic, in this one, although he’s suffering from wild jealousy because she’s become friendly with another visiting magician, Quinton Moon. Not only is Quinton charming and good-looking, he’s also a much better magician than Eli, so it’s hardly surprising Eli’s teeth grind every time his name is mentioned.

Eli is still living with his elderly uncle, above the magic shop which they jointly run. The regulars are all back and, as always, add a good deal of fun to the story. But, for all the warmth and humour in these books, I wouldn’t quite class them as cosies. The plots are always strong and though there is the ongoing romance between Eli and Megan this never takes over from the crime and investigation element. Eli’s connection to the police gets over the awkwardness of the amateur detective element, and this book sees the reappearance of the shady and scary underworld figure, known only as ‘Harry Lime’, who débuted in the last book, The Bullet Catch.

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It’s ‘Harry Lime’ who puts Eli onto the probable motive for the crime – he is convinced that the film can had contained a (real) lost masterpiece, London After Midnight. And he’s also able to provide a list of the people most likely to be keen to acquire such a prize. It’s now up to Eli and the police to investigate them and to solve the mystery of how the murderer managed to carry out the crime. As always, Gaspard comes up with some quirky suspects and characters to supplement the regulars.

Gaspard is not a magician but writes as knowledgeably as if he were, and the magic always plays a part in the plot. He follows the magician’s code of never revealing how the tricks are done, and describes them so well it’s almost like watching a great magician at work. The book titles are the names of magic tricks. In real life, he’s been involved in film-making as both writer and director and, since the introduction of ‘Harry Lime’, this has become a strong strand in the plots too, with lots of references to and jokes about classic movies.

John Gaspard
John Gaspard

The plotting and investigation elements of the book are very much like the traditional Golden Age mysteries – a crime, a collection of suspects, clues, red herrings etc. But the writing and characterisation bring them bang up to date so that they never read like pastiches. A truly welcome break from the modern diet of bleakness and misery, these are proper mysteries – not one of which I’ve been able to solve before Eli! And I hope to get the opportunity to fail to solve many more in the future. Highly recommended – this could easily be read as a standalone, but I’d recommend reading in order, starting with The Ambitious Card, to get the full benefit of the regular characters.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Henery Press.

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34 thoughts on “The Miser’s Dream (Eli Marks 3) by John Gaspard

  1. Sounds like one I need to add to my TBR list. I’ve never read any of Gaspard’s mysteries, so thanks for the recommendation. It’s especially interesting you’ve never solved any of them before Eli, so they must be cleverly written, too!

    • I think they’re really great little books these – the type of thing that brightens the day. And they’re so well plotted – another series I wish was better known!

  2. What an absolutely fabulous way to involve Eli in a mystery! I really like that, FictionFan! And there could be so many reasons the projectionist is dead, so you’ve got interesting character development, too. I really like the context for this one; the role of projectionist has changed a lot since my grandfather-in-law was one many years ago, and it’d be interesting to see how that’s portrayed. Glad you enjoyed this.

    • Ah, so it’s in the family for you then! There’s lots of stuff about the movies in this one – not just references to films, though there’s plenty of those, but with the murder taking place in the cinema, there’s a behind the scenes look too. His plotting is great – and though the characters tend to be quirky they’re still believable. A great little series!

  3. This sounds like a fun series! When I was little, I was always buying little illusion kits and trick cards. I have a soft spot for magicians in stories.

    In related news, I’ve found a way to organize my TBR list. Having everything so nicely sorted and easily managed means there’s no longer panic about seeing it grow longer! 😀

    • Eli is great fun as a character, and his Uncle Henry’s friends were all magicians and illusionists in their day, and now sit around discussing old tricks and magicians. I love the magic aspect of these books.

      Haha! You must run a post telling us how you do it! Mine is an ever more complicated Excel spreadsheet. I can spend hours happily moving books up and down – hours that might be better spent reading some of them… 😉

  4. This sounds like the perfect read to brighten up a cold day – I like the concept of the magician, and the projectionist, as you say not quite a cosy but it sounds as though it has that old-fashioned ‘honest mystery’ quality. Great review and I’ll admit to being a little bit tempted by this series.

  5. I would love Eli, I’m thinking! At first, I thought he could watch the movies from the window. Too bad he can’t. Imagine being able to look into a theatre? I would love that. The theatre probably wouldn’t, though.

    Magic never ceases to amaze me. I really think it is magic sometimes. Also, I think I know that John fellow.

    • Yes, but like with all the great Golden Age novels, nobody cares about the victims – they usually deserve it! Hope you enjoy these, if you get time to read them – they are indeed fun!

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