Death and the Conjuror, a review by Joanna

posted in: Joanna | 0

Death and the Conjuror

Tom Mead

Mysterious Press

288 pages

Published July 12, 2022


This is the first book in a planned series about elderly magician Joseph Spector, who assists his friend Detective Flint in solving some complicated locked room type murders. It’s set in 1930s London, and plays out as an homage to the Golden Age of Crime novels of that time, with the enigmatic amateur detective patiently following the clues to get to the truth when no one else can. This was a new author to me. Overall I enjoyed it and didn’t guess whodunnit, but was slightly disappointed by the superficiality of the characters.

When famous psychiatrist Anselm Rees is found inside his home office, locked from the inside, with his throat slashed, Scotland Yard are stumped, so call on retired trickster Spector to help solve the crime. Could it have been one of Rees’ celebrity clients – a reclusive writer, a kleptomaniac actress and an anxious musician, his cool and composed daughter or her foppish fiancé, or the mystery man who turned up on the night of the crime?

“But that’s all magic is, my dear. Taking the mundane and making it remarkable. And still, the trick teaches us something about perception. No matter how deceptive you thought you were being, my view was always clearer than yours. You may have thought you were tricking me. But of course, all along I was tricking you.”

For a mystery set in 1936, this felt uncomfortably modern – there were few period details to fix us in that particular time period and some of the language was rather anachronistic, including Americanisms that I doubt were in use at the time. I did learn some wonderful new words though, like hornswoggle and persiflage, and what mullions are (thanks Google!) The writing style is chatty – at one point breaking the fourth wall to invite the reader to solve the mystery themselves – and the plot moves along at a decent clip. I didn’t feel involved with any of the characters though – even Spector, we got very little backstory or insight into his personality, and I didn’t feel the relationship with bumbling detective George Flint. I did like the explanations for the various “magic” tricks though. I’m not sure if I will continue the series, but do recommend this for Agatha Christie fans who like a devious murderer.
3.5 rounded up for thoroughly bamboozling me! Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC.

Sharing is caring!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *