When a wealthy psychiatrist is murdered in his locked study, who do the detectives call when they’re stumped? In another series, they’d call Sherlock Holmes. In Tom Mead’s Death and the Conjuror, Detective George Flint calls Joseph Spector, a semi-retired magician, to help him figure out how the hell someone managed to brutally murder someone and escape from a locked room without anyone seeing or hearing anything. This quick read will be a delight for fans of fair-play mysteries who like to pick apart seemingly impossible cases.
Death and the Conjuror opens in Agatha Christie fashion by introducing us to all the players just before the crimes start to happen. We meet two actresses at a not-so-high-class London theatre who hate each other and get a glimpse of Spector as the curtain is about to go up on the theatre’s latest Gothic horror. In another part of London is an author of gruesome stories who seems to be losing a battle against his paranoia. In yet another part of London is the study of a very exclusive emigre psychiatrist (soon to be murder victim), who we meet as he is listening to one of his three patients talk about his haunting nightmares. Meanwhile, the psychiatrist’s daughter is preparing to go to the theatre with her rich, obnoxious fiance. By the next day, the psychiatrist is dead, a valuable painting is missing, and a whole lot of people are under investigation by Scotland Yard. Unfortunately, Scotland Yard—in the form of Detective Flint—is stumped. There’s no possible way for the murder to have occurred without something to point to the murderer, motive, and means.
I enjoyed every chapter of Death and the Conjuror: racing the detective and magician as they try to figure out what happened and whodunnit, evaluating the motives and characterizations of the various suspects, watching everyone race around either investigating or incriminating each other, and the brilliant reveal at the end. Everything in this book is perfect, especially the vibrant portraits of the very believable cast of characters. I could actually see this book playing out in my head. This book is a great way to, ahem, kill an afternoon.
This review is shorter than what I usually write but that’s only because I don’t want to ruin anything for any of you readers out there who want to pick it up. No hints or spoilers from me; you’ll have to read it to figure out what happened and why.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss and NetGalley, for review consideration.