MYSTERY

The Blood Card: A Magic Men Mystery

Houghton Harcourt. Sept. 2017. 384p. ISBN 9780544750302. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780544750494. M
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In 1953, as Elizabeth II's coronation is imminent, DI Edgar Stephens and magician Max Mephisto are distracted by the murder of Colonel Cartwright, commander of the Magic Men unit during World War II. Cartwright is found with the ace of hearts (the ostensible blood card) and a playbill featuring a colleague from their war years. Stephens is also probing the death of fortune-teller Madame Zabini while Mephisto and his daughter Ruby are preparing for a televised variety show to air on coronation day. Clues lead Stephens and Mephisto to an anarchist scheme to disrupt the coronation and send Stephens to New York in pursuit of a mesmerist tied to their cases. Mephisto must perform his greatest illusion on live TV to thwart the conspiracy.
VERDICT In this third series entry (The Zig Zag Girl and Smoke and Mirrors), multiple plotlines and instances of coincidence may become tiresome, but evocative postwar settings and appealing characters should draw in new and old readers alike. Fans wanting to know more about the real special ops Magic Gang team should check out David Fisher's book The War Magician currently under development as a film starring Benedict Cumberbatch.
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