Book review: Angel Killer by Andrew Mayne

There may be no smoke and mirrors but an intriguing new thriller from a professional magician packs in plenty of mind-boggling illusions.

How can a young woman crawl out of her own grave, and how on earth does a pilot’s body reappear on a Florida beach in the cockpit of his missing Second World War plane?

Andrew Mayne, who has his own American TV magic reality show and has worked alongside big names like David Copperfield and David Blaine, conjures up a truly entertaining bag of tricks in this fast and furious murder mystery.

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Armed with all the insider secrets of his trade, Mayne blinds us with illusionist science in an over-the-top but edge-of-the-seat crime thriller featuring a self-effacing FBI agent and one-time magician on the trail of a darks art serial killer.

And the sleuthing sleights of hand performed by rookie agent Jessie Blackwood look set to run and run as Angel Killer is the first book in what promises to be a dazzling and original new series.

FBI agent Jessica Blackwood hails from three generations of illusionists and is herself an experienced magician but she left behind her fractured, nomadic childhood after a trick went badly and dangerously wrong.

After a spell as a police officer, she is now working for the FBI but getting bored with her desk-bound job. All that changes when she is summoned by Dr Jeffrey Ailes, a clever computer scientist and FBI consultant also known as the Witchfinder.

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A hacker who identifies himself only as the Warlock has brought down the FBI’s website and posted a code in its place that leads agents to a Michigan cemetery where a girl, murdered two years ago, is found rising eerily from the ground, as if she had tried to crawl out of her own grave.

Ailes has discovered an old magic magazine revealing Jessica’s illusionist background and, faced with a crime that appears beyond explanation, he has nothing to lose – and everything to gain – by taking a chance on an agent raised in a world devoted to achieving the seemingly impossible.

But the body in the cemetery is only the first in the Warlock’s dark ‘miracles.’ Thrust into the media spotlight and with time ticking away until the next crime, can Jessica solve the unsolvable and stop a depraved killer? If she can’t, she may well become his next victim…

Mayne certainly pulls the rabbit out of the proverbial hat in an entertaining cat-and-mouse thriller that puts a fresh and magical spin on what can sometimes seem a routine merry-go-round of procedural crime mysteries.

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In Jessica, we have a fascinating female protagonist who possesses unique skills in a daring series that has the potential to explore exciting new avenues into the world of crime and the illuminating art of professional illusionism.

Don’t look now but this could be the start of something rather special!

(Faber, paperback, £7.99)