The Magician's Lie is one of the chosen books of winter at Shereads.org. Early reviewers compared it to The Night Circus, which is one of my all time favorite stories so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to read and review this book.
Synopsis from Amazon:
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 turn of the century setting in this story is what captured my attention first. I love books with a historical aspect to them and the traveling shows on the railway, New York, and Biltmore all lent themselves to the time period and were beautifully described. You can tell the author did her research when you, as the reader, feel like you are there inside the story. The Amazing Arden, our main character, is truly "amazing." She is a strong woman born in a man's time who dared to take risks in order to make it on her own and escape her past. She never gave up even when pushed to the breaking point and I like to see that in a female character.
The story is told in one night, in a police station, while Arden is handcuffed to a chair as a suspected murderer. She tells her story from this chair, going back to her childhood and ending with a return to the present. Her story is intriguing and I found myself constantly making mental notes when I thought I found a clue in the past that might lead to what really happened. I went back and forth several times on the issue of Arden's guilt. When the truth was close to being revealed and I realized what truly happened, I was both surprised and also impressed that the author was able to hold onto the mystery for so long. The paranormal element of the story is minor but just enough to make it all the more engaging. The love story between Arden and Clyde is beautifully written and reminds us of the sacrifices people make for one another so they can protect and be with the ones that mean the most to them. As a villain, Ray was the perfect example of evil. He was truly disturbed and made me cringe on more than one occasion as I read. I had no compassion for him whatsoever.
One thing I would have loved to have in the story was a more prominent role for Officer Holt. We get a glimpse of his life and the hardship he is dealing with but I felt that he was a good guy who was temporarily lost in life and I would have liked to see a more solid ending to his story.
There are a few disturbing scenes but these just made the book even harder to put down because I knew in my heart that Arden would prevail.