Set in the early 20th century, poet Greer Macallister’s haunting first novel is a compelling mystery. One night in Waterloo, Iowa, the Amazing Arden, one of the first American female illusionists, mesmerizes her audience with the classic “saw through man in a box” trick. On this particular night, she decides to use a fire ax rather than a saw. Was she simply altering her illusion, or carrying out a murder? And the man in the box? Is the slain man really her husband? Detective Virgil Holt is determined to find the answer.
Once in custody, the Amazing Arden—aka Ada Bates—begins to share her story. Starting with her birth in Pennsylvania and moving through her childhood in Tennessee, Arden weaves a journey that takes her from the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina to New York City. While in New York, she begins her training under Adelaide Hermann. Eventually, she takes over her traveling magic show, which put her in Waterlook for the heinous crime. Holt is swept up in the story, and Ada protests her innocence—but then again, she is a master illusionist. Can she be trusted?
Macallister’s painstaking descriptions of the costumes, technique and trickery involved in Ada’s work as an illusionist are unparalleled. Readers who enjoyed Water for Elephants or The Night Circus should pick up The Magician’s Lie and get lost in the mystery of magic.