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*** Trigger-warning: mental and physical abuse.
**I received an ARC of The Magician’s Lie from SOURCEBOOKS Landmark, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.**
“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.”
The Magician’s Lie was captivating, to say the least. This novel is a concoction of The Night Circus, Water for Elephants, a splash of Downton Abbey, a pinch of American Horror Story: Freak Show, and a sprinkle of The Hunger Games. While reading this novel, I felt like I was in the audience watching the Amazing Arden perform.
In what would be Arden’s current time – 1905, in Janesville, Iowa – she is a suspect of a murder investigation. Her assumed husband was found dead. The murder weapon was an ax; the same ax she’d used in her performance earlier that night. One of the officers, Virgil Holt, had attended the show that night. He remembered her using the ax during the show. With all the evidence that they had, they assumed that the man’s wife – the magician, Arden – was his murderer. Arden was no where to be found, because she had fled the scene, unknowing of the events that had taken place. By coincidence, Arden walked into the restaurant where Officer Holt was. He arrested her, and took her back to the station for questioning. His questions lead to her telling her whole life story. With flashbacks that date back to 1892, we get a glimpse of Arden’s, otherwise known as Ada’s, abusive past.
Growing up, she’d lived most of her life running away from someone; her grandparents, Ray, and even Clyde. When she was 12 years old, she, her mother, and Victor ran away to live together as a family on a farm. Ray, her cousin, abused her mentally and physically for years. Leading to her running away, after he’d ruined her chance of going to Ballet school in New York. She found herself back at the home where she was meant to dance for the famous ballet instructor, before the “accident.” She snuck in, was surprisingly welcomed, and became a servant. As time went on, she knew where she was meant to go – New York. While working at Biltmore, she met Clyde, and grew attached to him. In time, they ran away together to New York. Before arriving in New York, they stopped at Clyde’s family’s home, and got engaged. To Ada’s dismay, the engagement was phony – just a way for them to get money to make it to New York. Ada was upset, but tried to ignore the feelings she’d had about Clyde. Ada became a dancer on stage, and was discovered by Adelaide, who hired her to perform in her magic act.
The Amazing Arden was a a great illusionist and magician, but more importantly, she was feminist of her time. Being the only female illusionist, after Adelaide had retired, she had a lot to live up to. She had to make her own name. Through her different illusions and tricks, she empowered herself, her performers, and the women that attended their shows. She showed, through her magic, that women can be just as good as men – and then some. The first time she performs the Magic Milliner, I was astounded. It involved borrowing coins from a rude man, who ignored his wife, and somehow getting the coins into the wife’s purse (which she kept). The entire scene, I was thinking out loud, “Heck yes, Arden! Show that man who’s the real boss!”
Before I start rambling on again, and giving away too many details, I will say this: as the story goes on, officer Holt begins to believe the story to be true – especially when there is physical evidence of her past. The ending didn’t really have a shocking factor, which was actually okay with me. The way I imagined it ending was very similar to the way it did end.
If you like murder mysteries, historical fiction, or any of the other books and tv shows I’ve mentioned above, you should definitely check out The Magician’s Lie.
Have a great day!