Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Masquerading Magician (An Accidental Alchemist Mystery)

Author:  Gigi Pandian
Genre:  Mystery/Fantasy

Paperback; Ebook
ISBN #:  9780738742359
Midnight Ink Publishing
336 Pages
$14.99; $9.59 Kindle
January 8, 2015
Five Stars

Deciphering an ancient alchemy book is more difficult than Zoe Faust bargained for.  She'd much rather be gardening and exploring her new home of Portland, Oregon - but time is running out for living gargoyle Dorian Robert-Houdin.  If Zoe isn't able to unlock the alchemy book's secrets soon, the French gargoyle will remain awake but trapped in stone forever.

When Zoe gives herself a rare night out to attend a classic magic show that reminds her of her youth, she realizes the stage magicians are much more than they seem.  A murder at the theater leads back to a string of unsolved robberies and murders in Portland's past, and a mystery far more personal than Zoe and Dorian ever imagined.


Zoe Faust is an alchemist.  It's a little hard to explain, but in a nutshell (and I am not saying this is all they do) they have the ability to prolong life, heal, and - yes, in some cases - change base metals into precious ones.  I am not saying they exist, nor am I saying they do not.  I am merely explaining what an alchemist is.

At any rate, Zoe Faust is one of of those people.  She has spent the last several hundred years wandering the earth, never staying in any one place for very long, lest anyone should notice she hasn't aged.  At the present, she is residing in Portland, Oregon, and has bought her very first house, a fixer-upper that definitely needs work but she, at present, doesn't have the funds to repair.

Her first order of business is to help her housemate from dying.  You see, Dorian Robert-Houdin is a gargoyle.  Yes, gargoyle.  He was brought to life by a very famous French Magician, Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin.  And he is presently reverting to his stone state.  Which, if it occurs, will permanently trap him in a stone body forever, but he will be awake.  Thus Zoe has undertaken the dangerous task of trying to help him.  It is dangerous for her, because in making his Tea of Ashes, which helps him temporarily, it is slowly killing her.  So at night Dorian bakes wonderful treats for a local bakery - he has been trained as a gourmet chef by a blind chef - that everyone thinks Zoe makes.

One night Zoe gives herself a rare night out to see a pair of magicians, and notices her young friend Brixton at the performance - the only other living person who knows about Dorian - and looks up and also sees Dorian, which throws her, because she knows it is dangerous for him to be there.

It is a long story, and one I will not go into with detail, because I do not want to give too much away - which, in this case, is difficult because it is a key part of the story; but I will attempt to write the gist of it.  The magicians, Peter and Penelope, remind Zoe of a performance she saw many, many years ago.  Peter Silverman reminds Brixton of someone he has seen recently, and this leads him and Zoe to another dilemma in which they may need his help, but do not know how to approach him.  It seems Peter resembles a man who committed a robbery in Portland over fifty years ago, and was killed by the police; so much so that Brixton is convinced he is the same man and, being a magician, could also be an alchemist.  If so, Zoe could need his help in keeping Dorian alive.

And one night, a man is found dead in the theater, clutching one of Dorian's stone toes, which somehow got tangled in wires the night he visited the performance and broke off.  Due to this, Zoe's semi-boyfriend Max Liu, a police detective, thinks Dorian (the statue) may have been used in the crime, but does not know how.

From there we have an extremely interesting story.  Ms. Pandian has a way of mingling fact with fiction in her writing, and does it very well.  In this story she uses factual people, (the magician Robert-Houdin, for example) and weaves it into the novel in ways which not only seem plausible, but are compelling as well.  It makes the book appear as if one were reading a history book, not a fictional novel, which is interesting enough in itself, but quite ingenuous in its own way.

I enjoyed this book very much, but I must disavow Dorian of the notion that Hercule Poirot was not un flic.  He was, indeed, at one time.  Highly recommended.

More on Gigi Pandian's books:  http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/p/gigi-pandian/


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