Review: The Magician’s Lie by Greer Macallister

Posted January 14, 2015 by Lillian in Reviews / 0 Comments

I received this book via Netgalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of this review.

Review: The Magician’s Lie by Greer MacallisterThe Magician's Lie by Greer Macallister
Published by Sourcebooks Landmark on 2015-01-13
Length: 320 pages
Reviewing eARC from Netgalley
Reading Challenges: COYER Winter 2014-2015

Water for Elephants meets The Night Circus in The Magician’s Lie, a debut novel in which the country’s most notorious female illusionist stands accused of her husband's murder --and she has only one night to convince a small-town policeman of her innocence.

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 Magician’s Lie by Greer Macallister is an intriguing story about a young female illusionist arrested for murdering her husband.

I’m not gonna lie, I struggled between loving this book and hating it. In fact at one point I almost sat it down, but I pushed through to the end and I am SO glad I did!

The Amazing Arden is arrested by Officer Virgil Holt after the discovery of her husband’s body, hidden under the stage cleaved in half with an axe, the same axe she used in her act. However she is adamant that she didn’t do it, and to prove it she tells her story to Holt one late night/early morning in 1905.

“Tell me then,” he says. “Tell me what happened.”

She does something he’s never seen her do. Not in the posters. Not onstage. And certainly not since he recognized and apprehended her in that restaurant.

She smiles.

The Amazing Arden looks at him out of her half-brown eye, tilts her head, and asks, “Where does a person’s story begin?”

Arden is a fascinating character. Her real name, Ada Bates, represents the life she is trying to escape. Raised by her step-father and mother, she runs away after a rather scary encounter with her cousin. What I love about her is she’s confident and determined. Whatever she sets her mind to, she accomplishes. When she runs away, she gets a job as a maid to support her. When her past catches up to her, she finds an escape to New York and secures a job as a dancer. She’s a strong character who is just trying to find what she wants in the world.

Officer Virgil Holt isn’t seen much, but he plays a big role. It is through him that we hear Ada’s life story, and his frustration at her comes through this perception. He only wants to know what happened the night of her husband’s murder, but she insists to understand and believe her he must hear the whole story. I like Virgil, but I also feel sorry for him. He’s nursing his own secrets throughout the book that he slowly reveals to Arden so she will continue with her own story.

Ada’s life is affected the most by three people: Ray, Clyde, and Adelaide. Ray is her step-cousin, three years her senior, and crazy. Seriously he is! He believes he has the power to heal people with just a touch and thought. He tests this on Ada and believes she is his. Honestly reading about him gave me the creeps and I fully supported her running away! Clyde is a young man that Ada meets while working as a maid and he is her escape to New York. I love Clyde, he is sweet and the relationship that builds between him and Ada is that sweet, untouchable first love. Adelaide is Ada’s mentor whom she grows to care for I believe more than her own mother. She’s tough and unlikable, but she takes Ada under her wing and eventually trains her.

The whole story is wonderfully written and spans about 15 years as Ada moves from the time her mother married her step-father to the night of her arrest. The synopsis compares it to Water for Elephants and I whole-heartedly agree! The setting alternates from Ada telling her story to the one night of her arrest (told from Virgil’s POV). I loved this alternating POV and the wonderful way in which the author describes life on a train and on the road with an illusionist. He even explains some of the illusions and how they work!

My only complaint and why I nearly gave up on the story is that at times the plot dragged and seemed to almost stop completely. There would be some key point in the plot that would grab my attention and the pace would be fast and suspenseful, then there would be nothing and the pace would drop off for several chapters.

What I loved about the whole book was the writing. The words are beautiful and captivating. It was like Ada was talking directly to me! Overall I enjoyed the story and highly recommend it for anyone that enjoys historical fiction!

About Greer Macallister

Raised in the Midwest, Greer Macallister is a poet, short story writer, playwright, and novelist whose work has appeared in publications such as THE NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW, THE MISSOURI REVIEW, and THE MESSENGER. Her plays have been performed at American University, where she earned her MFA in creative writing. She lives with her family in Brooklyn.


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