Death and the Conjuror

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Pub Date 12 Jul 2022 | Archive Date 30 Jun 2022
Penzler Publishers, Mysterious Press

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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.

About the Author: 

Tom Mead is a UK-based author specializing in crime fiction. His stories have appeared in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Litro Online, Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, Lighthouse, Mystery Scene and Mystery Weekly (among others). Several of his pieces have also been anthologized, most recently "Heatwave" in The Best Mystery Stories of the Year 2021 (ed. Lee Child).

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...

Advance Praise

"An engrossing tale of murder and magicians, and a revealing exploration of the ever-popular locked-room mystery, Mead’s debut is a novel to intrigue and delight." - John Connolly

"Tom Mead has created an intriguing set of puzzles on par with John Dickson Carr in Death and the Conjuror. A true delight for mystery lovers!" - Charles Todd

"With a deviously intricate locked-room plot, Death and the Conjuror unfolds as both an elegant tribute and a cunning update of the classic 'impossible crime' story. Somewhere, the great John Dickson Carr is smiling." - Daniel Stashower, two-time Edgar-winner and author of the Harry Houdini mysteries

"An engrossing tale of murder and magicians, and a revealing exploration of the ever-popular locked-room mystery, Mead’s debut is a novel to intrigue and delight." - John Connolly

"Tom Mead has...

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ISBN 9781613163184
PRICE US$25.95 (USD)

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Featured Reviews

Oh my gosh I couldnt put this book down, it sounded so intrigying by the blurb and I wasnt disappointed. It was gripping and completely engaging right from the start.
It was well written with well developed and likeable characters that i am still thinking about now and a great storyline, that was intriguing and as someone who loves an escape room I found this so enjoyable.
Magic, magicians, murder and locked rooms what more could someone need, I was completely captivated.

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This book will have you scratching your head trying to piece together the mystery throughout the entire book. Perfect whodunit with great twists and turns! The first book for me to read by this author but not my last! Highly recommend!

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An excellent homage to impossible murders and locked room mystery, a gripping and well written story that kept me turning pages and trying to solve the puzzle at the center of the story.
I loved Spector and Flint, they're a perfect detecting couple. The suspects are a fascinating group of people who's hiding secrets and could be the culprit.
It's a page turner I couldn't put down and loved.
I hope to read other stories featuring Spector and Flint.
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine

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Death and the Conjuror is a homage to the great locked room mysteries of the Golden Age and a clever and entertaining novel in its own right. I’m hoping it’s the first in a series as I would love to see more books like this from Tom Mead.

The novel is set in London in the 1930s where the renowned psychiatrist Anselm Rees has been found dead in his study. The door is locked, there’s no sign of a murder weapon and there’s no way for the killer to have escaped without being seen. Inspector Flint of Scotland Yard is baffled by this seemingly impossible murder and calls on retired magician Joseph Spector in the hope that he can use his knowledge of illusions and deceptions to help solve the mystery.

As the detective and the magician begin their investigations, they uncover another intriguing crime – an equally impossible theft – which seems to have links to Dr Rees’ death. Could one of the psychiatrist’s patients be responsible for one or both of these crimes? And can Flint and Spector catch the culprit before another murder takes place?

As with any good mystery novel, there are plenty of suspects, an assortment of clues and lots of red herrings! Suspicion falls not only on the doctor’s own household – including his daughter and her fiancé – but also on three of his patients, celebrities who are referred to as Patients A, B and C, to protect their identities. Each patient has been seeing Dr Rees for help with a specific problem, which we learn more about as the story unfolds. The psychiatric element of the plot is fascinating and reminded me very much of Helen McCloy’s Dr Basil Willing mysteries. It came as no surprise to me, then, to learn that McCloy is one of many classic crime novelists Tom Mead has named as an influence on his writing – along with John Dickson Carr, Ellery Queen, Nicholas Blake and others.

I loved the idea of a magician working alongside the police; Spector has lots of specialist knowledge when it comes to the sort of tricks a murderer or a thief might use to create confusion and cover their tracks. As a locked room mystery it was very satisfying and although I didn’t manage to solve it myself, I enjoyed following the progress of the investigations and was happy for Spector to explain it all for me at the end. As a tribute to the Golden Age mystery I thought it was equally successful. I could almost have believed I really was reading a book from the 1930s, as the author seemed to have made an effort to avoid inappropriately modern language and modern sensibilities. The characters in the book even discuss and reference some of the detective novels of the time, but in such a way that the plots of those books aren’t spoiled for those of us who haven’t read them yet.

This was a great read and I will be hoping for another mystery for Joseph Spector to solve soon.

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Dr. Anselm Rees is found murdered in his study There was only one door and one window, and they are both locked from the inside. Not only did he seem like a nice man, but he hasn't been living in London for long. What could he have possibly done that would lead to his murder? Scotland Yard Detective George Flint enlists the assistance of a magician, Joseph Spector to solve this puzzling crime.

Was it the psychiatrist’s daughter Lidia or her fiancé Marcus? Or maybe one of his patients, Della an actress, Floyd a musician, or Claude a writer. Or was it related to a stolen painting from Benjamin Teasel’s house? Or perhaps one of his old patients known as the Snakeman. There were plenty of red herrings to consider, and in hindsight, it is easy to see how I went down the wrong trail. Also, I think my little grey cells got too caught up in how it was done, and I didn't spend enough time thinking about the who. Hercule Poirot would not have been amused at my lack of focus.
I did however fail to solve this intriguing case, so kudos to the author. I would love to see Joseph Spector in another book as his background was just so interesting. A well-written locked-room mystery that I enjoyed. 4.5 stars.

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London,1936. There had been "an increase in 'impossible' crimes-typically high-society affairs, where men in locked rooms were killed under impractical circumstances...murder as a puzzle." so stated Scotland Yard Inspector George Flint.

Dr. Anselm Rees, having left Vienna five months prior, resided in an upscale suburb in London with his daughter, Lidia. As a noted psychiatrist, he was in the process of treating three patients, referred to as Patients A, B and C. All sessions were conducted in his study. Three late night panicked telephone calls ensued. Oh no! The good doctor had been found murdered! Both the study door and French windows were locked from the inside, no weapon nor fingerprints found. According to housekeeper Olive, "I can tell you that-not five minutes ago the doctor was alive and well in this room because I heard him talking on the telephone."

Inspector Flint requested the expertise of Joseph Spector, professional trickster. "Though his gait and dress sense were those of a very old all conjurors he played up to the confusion." "An impossible crime in a locked room-Spector, as magician, might be able to tell how the trick was done." But impossible art theft...a second baffling murder. Are these deceptive, puzzling crimes connected?

Who are the suspects? Dr. Lidia Rees, daughter of Dr. Anselm Rees, seemed to be matter of fact about her father's demise. Her playboy boyfriend had many secrets. What of Patients A, B, and C? Why did the Rees family emigrate to London from Vienna? So many unanswered questions.

"Death and the Conjuror" by Tom Mead is a Golden Age locked room mystery of the finest caliber. Do you think you can easily solve the murder mystery? Reader, guess again! I hope author Mead considers writing a series with the pairing of Inspector George Flint and retired magician Joseph Spector as sleuths on a quest to solve mind boggling, seemingly impossible crimes. Highly recommended.

Thank you Penzler Publications/ Mysterious Press and Net Galley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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Loved this locked room mystery! Mead creates a character in magician Joseph Spector that makes me want to read his next case. The secondary characters were delightful, the mystery clever, and the clues out in the open. I will happily recommend this mystery to my customers.

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