Book Reviews

Book Review: Death and the Conjuror

By Tom Mead

Publication Date:  July 12, 2022

288 Pages

I was really excited to read this locked-room mystery.  Set in 1930s London, it tells the tale of a world-renowned psychiatrist who is killed in his study.  At the time of his death, both the room and the windows were locked from the inside.  There were other people in the residence who swore that no one else entered or left the house.  To make it more confounding, the murder happened within a five minute window of time.

The cast of characters were led by Joseph Spector, a magician who was called in to assist on the case by Scotland Yard.  The suspects included the doctor’s daughter, her fiancé, and three famous patients – a musician, an actress, and a novelist.  Everyone had an alibi. Whodunnit?

This novel boasts not one, but three locked room mysteries.  Two are murders, one is an art theft.  Honestly, I couldn’t make heads or tales of any of them since all of my assumptions and theories were disproven in short order so I gamely read on, hoping some new clue would come to light to help me solve at least one of the mysteries before the big reveal. 

That never happened.

“Death and the Conjuror” interpreted by Wombo Dream

The characters all had at least a minor motive, but all were dispatched in short order.  If you read this book, pay attention to every subplot because it will tie in at the end.  However, it was the big reveal that disappointed me and ultimately caused me to drop my rating a little bit.  Let me rephrase, it wasn’t the reveal itself but the execution.

When Spector gathers all of the suspects together at the end, he launches into pages and pages of dialogue, explaining all three mysteries at one time with only one or two action breaks.  The author provided notes on which pages the clues were hidden but I completely missed them on the first read and honestly was too mentally exhausted by the time I got to the end of the third crime to go back and look them up.  The style reminded me of a Sherlock Holmes episode, but at least in that I would have been shown quick visuals of what Holmes had noticed as he investigated.  This would actually be really interesting as a miniseries or TV show, given the time period.  I imagine the visuals would be gorgeous.  But reading the reveal not only lost me, since I didn’t pick up on the majority of clues/events that Spector laid out.  Although, that might say more about me than it does about the story; I’m not discounting that for a second.

In the end, I rated this novel 3 stars. ⭐⭐⭐

Thank you to NetGalley and Penzler Publishers for providing the ARC copy of this book.  I have left my review honestly and voluntarily.  

Until next time, thank you for visiting.

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