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The Magician's Lie


The Magician's Lie

“What I loved most about the magic I did as the Amazing Arden was that it wasn’t real.”

The Amazing Arden began life as Ada Bates, and the road to becoming a master magician was a rocky one. But how she got there is essential to understanding why she ended up handcuffed to a chair inside a small town police station one summer night in 1905.

Earlier in the evening, Janesville police officer Virgil Holt stood rapt, watching Arden’s spectacular performance. A short while later, a man identified as her husband was discovered --- dead --- at the show house, and Arden had disappeared. In a stroke of luck, Holt managed to capture her and now sees renewed job security where it only recently had been slipping away. Nabbing a murderess would be a fine feather in his cap, particularly considering the news that the doctor gave him today.

"Whatever you believe at the end, the journey will have been well worth it, for THE MAGICIAN’S LIE is high entertainment."

But Arden swears she’s innocent. So the policeman allows her the chance to convince him. The story she tells begins when she was just a child, in 1892. Hers was not a bad childhood. Ada's family had enough to survive, and she had some talent, especially when it came to dancing. But her hopes of becoming a professional dancer were dashed by an evil fellow named Ray, who held influence over the Bates family future. Unfortunately, Ray became obsessed with Ada --- so much so, in fact, that eventually life became unbearable and the girl had to escape. After several near tragedies, young Ada found work with Adelaide Herrmann’s traveling magic show. What better way to stay hidden than to keep moving? she thought. But a man possessed with the desires Ray possessed doesn’t give up easily.

Ada assumes several stage names, ending as the Amazing Arden. Maybe she believed that the name changes, along with never staying in one place, might keep her at least one step ahead of Ray. But is it really possible? As she continues her tale long into the night, Officer Holt starts to feel a glimmer of hope for his own predicament, even as he fights his skepticism surrounding hers. Is there a chance that this Amazing Arden might actually help him in exchange for her freedom? She almost has him convinced that she is truly capable of magic. As for whether she killed a man, well, that might take a bit more convincing.

Greer Macallister wanted to write a story that featured a woman as the main stage magician, focusing on the trick of cutting a man in half (rather than the other way around as it usually was done). In her research, she uncovered Adelaide Herrmann, and the rest, as they say, is history. Ms. Herrmann was a real magician right around the turn of the 20th century, so creating the Amazing Arden to work with Adelaide’s show fit beautifully. And, besides the irresistible lure of the mystery surrounding the murder, there are the fascinating inner workings of a magic revue to keep you turning pages. Add to that Macallister’s characters, both actual and made up. They are a gritty, cruel, tough and courageous bunch. And as Ada, aka Arden, talks deep into the early morning hours, the reader can’t help but wonder if the magician is telling the truth or if it’s all a fantastically woven lie.

Whatever you believe at the end, the journey will have been well worth it, for THE MAGICIAN’S LIE is high entertainment.

Reviewed by Kate Ayers on January 13, 2015

The Magician's Lie
by Greer Macallister