Joseph Spector: Book 1
Publication Date: July 12, 2022
A magician-turned-sleuth in pre-war London solves three impossible crimes
In 1930s London, celebrity psychiatrist Anselm Rees is discovered dead in his locked study, and there seems to be no way that a killer could have escaped unseen. There are no clues, no witnesses, and no evidence of the murder weapon. Stumped by the confounding scene, the Scotland Yard detective on the case calls on retired stage magician-turned-part-time sleuth Joseph Spector. For who better to make sense of the impossible than one who traffics in illusions?
Spector has a knack for explaining the inexplicable, but even he finds that there is more to this mystery than meets the eye. As he and the Inspector interview the colorful cast of suspects among the psychiatrist’s patients and household, they uncover no shortage of dark secrets―or motives for murder. When the investigation dovetails into that of an apparently-impossible theft, the detectives consider the possibility that the two transgressions are related. And when a second murder occurs, this time in an impenetrable elevator, they realize that the crime wave will become even more deadly unless they can catch the culprit soon.
A tribute to the classic golden-age whodunnit, when crime fiction was a battle of wits between writer and reader, Death and the Conjuror joins its macabre atmosphere, period detail, and vividly-drawn characters with a meticulously-constructed fair play puzzle. Its baffling plot will enthrall readers of mystery icons such as Agatha Christie and John Dickson Carr, modern masters like Anthony Horowitz and Elly Griffiths, or anyone who appreciates a good mystery.
Readers seeking a fresh voice in Agatha Christie-style mysteries need look no further than Tom Mead. With Death and the Conjuror, the author delivers a true “whodunit.” All the clues are laid out for review before the grand finale.
Set in London in the late 1930s, the focus is on who killed Dr. Anslem Rees. I felt a bit like I was in the midst of a game of Clue, given the formality of the prose. The author deftly captures the time period complete with a seasoned inspector and his conjuror/magician expert.
The murder itself created quite a conundrum. How could a psychologist be murdered inside a locked room? His three clients, as well as his daughter, are put under the microscope. When another dead body is found with no reasonable explanation, officials start looking at the impossible.
While it took a bit for me to get into this story, it was ultimately well worth it. Because the details are so meticulous, it isn’t surprising that I missed a few clues along the way. The end result is worthy of Sherlock Holmes!
Death and the Conjuror provides an interesting foray into mysteries of yesterday where old-fashioned sleuthing is the key to finding answers.
Tom Mead is a UK crime fiction author specialising in locked-room mysteries. He is a member of the Crime Writers’ Association, International Thriller Writers, and the Society of Authors. He is a prolific author of short fiction, and recently his story “Heatwave” was included in THE BEST MYSTERY STORIES OF THE YEAR 2021, edited by Lee Child. DEATH AND THE CONJUROR is his first novel.
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