The Linking Rings (Eli Marks 4) by John Gaspard

“To see oursels as ithers see us…”

😀 😀 😀 🙂

When his uncle Harry is invited to perform at the Magic Circle in London, Eli Marks takes the opportunity of turning the trip into a holiday for himself and his girlfriend, Megan. But things take a dramatic turn when one of the magicians slated to appear with Harry dies on stage – killed by a “magic” contraption. As Harry falls under suspicion, Eli and some of Harry’s magician friends must try to find out what happened…

I love this series so approached this book with high expectations and it has a lot of the elements that make the series so enjoyable. Eli is a first person narrator (past tense) and it’s always fun to listen in on his thoughts about the people he meets. Gaspard always presents the stage magic interestingly, without breaking the magician’s code of not revealing how tricks are done. I love the interaction between Eli and his elderly uncle and, by extension, the older generation of stage magicians he knows from the days when stage magic was still bigger than TV magic.

But the transplanting of the characters to London didn’t work so well for me. Thankfully Gaspard doesn’t go the funny accent route, but he does keep suggesting that perfectly commonplace English expressions are actually American in origin and therefore hard for us old-fashioned throwbacks to use confidently. And when Eli began to refer to his hotel as Fawlty Towers, it set my teeth on edge somewhat. It’s such a cliché. I also can’t help but get picky about factual or cultural inaccuracies that could have been sorted by a little research: for example, the suggestion that magistrates are responsible for charging people with crimes, or a police officer using the term ‘capital crime’ in a country that abolished capital punishment back when the Beatles still had short hair. Irritating errors like these, and there were several more of them, tend to throw me out of the flow of the story. I strongly suggest that if American authors want to write books based in Britain and publish them in Britain, they should hire a British editor to give them a final look over before sending the proofs to the printers.

However, I doubt any of these things would annoy American readers, who will make up the bulk of Gaspard’s audience, so hey ho! But I personally will be glad when Eli returns to Minnesota for his next adventure.

John Gaspard

Otherwise, the plot itself is quite fun with its origins back in Harry’s past, leading to enjoyable reminiscing among the entertaining group of magicians who’ve assembled for the performances at the Magic Circle. It seemed to me to cross the credibility line more than is usual in this series, and perhaps not to be quite as “fair play”. But there’s plenty of humour in it and Eli is as likeable a hero as always.

I know this review has been quite critical but I did enjoy reading the book overall, although it certainly isn’t my favourite in the series. However, it was good to see the personal stories of the main characters move forward, and I look forward to meeting up with them all again in their next outing.

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

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

29 thoughts on “The Linking Rings (Eli Marks 4) by John Gaspard

  1. I love your reviews of these books, I haven’t got round to reading any in this series yet but do plan to as they are so very much my sort of thing! What a shame it fell down with a few ‘cultural’ hiccups, that sort of thing really can break one’s flow when reading. As you say, the American audience won’t mind it and will probably love an adventure set in London so it’s a good move by the author – if only he had spared a thought for his humble British readers!

  2. I’m glad you found some things about this to like, FictionFan. I have to agree with you, though, about the accuracy. It’s really worth the effort to find out, for instance, who has authority to arrest in a given place. Doing a bit of research goes a long way… Still, I’m glad you liked a lot of the story.

    • I love this series, Margot, so I was sorry to find myself criticising it. But those cultural gaffes are annoying, especially when a little research could have prevented them – or even just asking a Brit to read it over before publishing. But I still recommend the series and even this book. Most Americans won’t notice – why should they? I probably wouldn’t notice if a British author made the same kind of errors about a book set in America…

  3. Haven’t got around to this series yet. I do agree about the cultural lapses – nowadays, when everything can be Googled, there’s really no excuse. My pet hate is titles – if you must write about aristos, at least get the terms right!

    • I’m sure you’ll enjoy the series when you do get around to it – the ones set in America have all been excellent. Yes, I hate that too! I read an American newspaper article recently that kept referring to Kate as just ‘Middleton’. I was tempted to point out that even if their egalitarianism prevented them giving her her title, her name would actually be Wales, since that’s the name William goes by. And if they’re so egalitarian why are they so obsessed by royalty anyway?? Gah!

  4. I’m with Big Sis (and you) on this. Author should stand shame-facedly in the naughty corner. Suggest you offer your services as UK cultural attache to American authors writing about these isles

    • It’s annoying – no doubt British authors do it when basing books in America too, but happily I don’t notice that! Haha – I was thinking that since the whole world happens on the internet now, American authors must have some British contacts they could ask to ‘beta-read’ for them…

      • Neil Gaiman’s unabridged version of American Gods allows British phrases to sneak in, which annoyed me in particular because he was writing an American character IN THE MIDWEST. We’re more likely to refer to a British man as “that fancy feller” than a “European”! I noted on my Goodreads update status: “I just read a section set in the US with US characters in which they use the words “flat” and “trolley,” but to make up for it a character tells a story and uses the words “vee-hicle” and “two-b’-fours.””

        • Oh, that would annoy me too! Especially since we get so much American culture over here he should really know better – particularly “flat”. What do you call a trolley then? I really don’t understand why authors don’t get a local to read over a book before publication if their setting it in a different culture. Gaiman could afford a Midwest editor, but even ones on a shoestring budget must be able to find a willing beat-reader on social media surely…

  5. So, I’m guessing this is not a good book to start with in this series.
    I agree with you–errors like this make the author look bad. I’m surprised that the publisher didn’t consider hiring an editor to give the manuscript another look.

    • Not for Brits, anyway, though I suspect Americans wouldn’t notice, any more than I’d notice if a British authors based a book in the US and made the same kinds of mistakes. But overall it’s still one of my favourite series.

      It does seem odd to me. If it’s a financial thing, then surely they could have got a British contact to give it a quick read through just to pick up the most obvious things…

  6. An enjoyable review of yet another series that has wandered over my radar but I haven’t got around to sampling yet! This sounds good despite the cultural errors which would set my teeth on edge too – as you say in this day and age there really is no excuse.

    • It’s a pity because I do love this series and if I was American I’m sure I wouldn’t have noticed. But grrr! He should have got a Brit to read it over for him. Still, I shall magnanimously forgive him and start happily anticipating the next book…

    • I love the series, so I’d hate for this review to put anyone off. They do stand alone, but are worth reading in order because the characters’ relationships develop over time.

  7. I haven’t read any of these, but I find I agree with you again. Transplanting characters can be a tricky thing, despite all the free information online. Wonder why he felt the need to move them anyway? And, sad to say, too many American readers wouldn’t be fazed at all over the points you found prickly; after all, we’re notoriously unenlightened when it comes to other cultures, hee hee!

    • I suspect people do it to jazz a series up a bit, but I’m never convinced it’s a good idea. Quite often it’s the setting that appeals in a series as much as the characters. Haha – I don’t want to sound at all superior, because I’m quite sure if a Scottish author wrote a book based in the US I wouldn’t pick up any inaccuracies either… 😀

  8. Hmm you’re right that I probably wouldn’t have picked up on these British inaccuracies HOWEVER I hate it when a book is clearly not researched or fact-checked properly. God, we might as well be reading self-published books if there hasn’t been a proper edit done!

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