Review: The Magician’s Lie by Greer Macallister

the-magicians-lie“Water for Elephants meets The Night Circus in The Magician’s Lie, a debut novel in which the country’s most notorious female illusionist stands accused of her husband’s murder –and she has only one night to convince a small-town policeman of her innocence.

The Amazing Arden is the most famous female illusionist of her day, renowned for her notorious trick of sawing a man in half on stage. One night in Waterloo, Iowa, with young policeman Virgil Holt watching from the audience, she swaps her trademark saw for a fire ax. Is it a new version of the illusion, or an all-too-real murder? When Arden’s husband is found lifeless beneath the stage later that night, the answer seems clear.

But when Virgil happens upon the fleeing magician and takes her into custody, she has a very different story to tell. Even handcuffed and alone, Arden is far from powerless—and what she reveals is as unbelievable as it is spellbinding. Over the course of one eerie night, Virgil must decide whether to turn Arden in or set her free… and it will take all he has to see through the smoke and mirrors.” – Publisher Summary

The Magician’s Lie by Greer Macallister is the captivating tale of a single night in 1905 during which a young performer must tell her life story to a local lawman in a desperate attempt to convince him to let her go free despite the fact that she is wanted for murder. This is truly one of the most imaginative historical fiction novels I’ve read in quite a while. Macallister clearly crafted her characters and settings with a sharp eye and meticulous research.

A particularly attractive point of this novel, for me, was the dual narrative – at times we are seeing the past as Arden/Ada experienced it, and others we are viewing the present moment from the perspective of the officer who has arrested her – and who has his own tragedies and agenda depending on this long, long, night.

I want to reveal as little of the plot as possible, but I will say that I was left with some questions after I had finished reading this novel. Not that there was necessarily any unfinished business; there simply seemed to be some decisions and actions made by Arden/Ada that belied her generally intelligent, confident, and capable nature. As I pondered this after setting the book (or shall I say, my Kindle Paperwhite) down, it occurred to me that these were simply times when her inner vulnerability had taken over and overshadowed her general common sense. This character flaw is just one example of the way Macallister breathed life into her characters.

Not to fear, y’all, The Magician’s Lie most definitely contains a beautiful romance – but not one that quite follows the path you would have expected. It is not the perfect fairy-tale romance that surrounds Arden and Clyde, not in the beginning nor toward the end. This facet of the novel was a fresh breath of air to me, given the plethora of tales out there with gothic love stories aplenty.

The Magician’s Lie is a delightful read that I devoured in less than a day. The graphic, descriptive writing flows like water and brings these memorable characters to life. I loved the idea behind the novel – a female illusionist in the early 1900’s, which was very, very rare. Greer Macallister is a talent to be reckoned with and I cannot wait to see what she brings to us next.

The Magician’s Lie by Greer Macallister: Available at a bookseller near you on January 13, 2015.

5 stars

Source: Sourcebooks Landmark {via NetGalley}



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