*I received a free copy of this book with thanks to the author and Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: A magician-turned-sleuth in pre-war London solves three impossible crimes.
In 1930s London, celebrity psychiatrist Anselm Rees is discovered dead in his locked study, and there seems to be no way that a killer could have escaped unseen. There are no clues, no witnesses, and no evidence of the murder weapon. Stumped by the confounding scene, the Scotland Yard detective on the case calls on retired stage magician-turned-part-time sleuth Joseph Spector. For who better to make sense of the impossible than one who traffics in illusions?
Spector has a knack for explaining the inexplicable, but even he finds that there is more to this mystery than meets the eye. As he and the Inspector interview the colorful cast of suspects among the psychiatrist’s patients and household, they uncover no shortage of dark secrets―or motives for murder. When the investigation dovetails into that of an apparently-impossible theft, the detectives consider the possibility that the two transgressions are related. And when a second murder occurs, this time in an impenetrable elevator, they realize that the crime wave will become even more deadly unless they can catch the culprit soon.
A tribute to the classic golden-age whodunnit, when crime fiction was a battle of wits between writer and reader, Death and the Conjuror joins its macabre atmosphere, period detail, and vividly-drawn characters with a meticulously-constructed fair play puzzle. Its baffling plot will enthrall readers of mystery icons such as Agatha Christie and John Dickson Carr, modern masters like Anthony Horowitz and Elly Griffiths, or anyone who appreciates a good mystery.
This is one that puzzle fanatics, illusion lovers and mystery aficionados will enjoy equally, as it comprises more than one ‘impossible’ or locked room mystery within a classic, golden-age mystery framework. Picture Jonathan Creek but set in 1930s London and without the romcom vibes distracting from the action, and that should give you an idea of what to expect.
When it comes to the murder, there is a reasonably restricted suspect pool, which should have made the plot more straightforward to follow, but not only does every character have their own secrets to hide, but the illusion-magic aspect of the mysteries made them absolutely impenetrable to me! The author/narrator notes towards the end of the story that all of the clues are there, and he is right, they are – I just had not a single hope of putting them together to come up with the correct solutions. I was very much poor Captain Hastings (from Agatha Christie’s Poirot stories) when it came to the final reveal scene!
I was particularly fond of the psychological slant to the storyline, with the victim being a psychiatrist and the suspects including three of his patients and his psychiatrically-trained daughter. I love any exploration of the quirks and shadows of the human mind, and here we get glimpses into anxiety, kleptomania and possibly hints of sociopathy… so very intriguing trying to work out how each individual psychological profile might match up to the crimes under investigation.
You would definitely need a sharper mind than mine if you hope to solve this mystery before the main characters do, but that didn’t stop me avidly devouring the book and wanting more of Joseph Spector and his impossible investigations.
Fans of locked room mysteries and logical conundrums, as well as fans of Dame Christie and similar authors, will enjoy the challenge of this puzzling mystery.
‘Olive already had the phone in her hand. “Two three one, Dollis Hill,” she announced. “Dr. Anselm Rees has been murdered.”
While she provided a few scant details, she looked around the room and noticed something.
“The windows are locked,” she said as she hung up the phone.
“Mm?” Della sounded startled.
“The windows. They’re locked on the inside.” To prove this, she gripped one of the handles and rattled it. It would not move, and the key protruded from the lock.
“Then how did the killer get away?”
“What do you mean?”
“He can’t have come out through the hall. I was there the whole time. And not five minutes ago—not five minutes—I can tell you that the doctor was alive and well in this room because I heard him talking on the telephone.”
Della thought about this. “It can’t be locked.” She reached out and tried the handle for herself. But the windows did not budge. “It’s locked on the inside,” said Olive, “just like the door.”’– Tom Mead, Death and the Conjuror
About the Author:
Tom Mead is a UK crime fiction author specialising in locked-room mysteries. He is a member of the Crime Writers’ Association, International Thriller Writers, and the Society of Authors. He is a prolific author of short fiction, and recently his story “Heatwave” was included in THE BEST MYSTERY STORIES OF THE YEAR 2021, edited by Lee Child. DEATH AND THE CONJUROR is his first novel.
Giveaway (US Only):
This is a giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Tom Mead. See the widget for entry terms and conditions. Void where prohibited.
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