Thursday, August 2, 1923. Magician Carter the Great is performing the third act of his show, the act called "Carter Beats the Devil." He' set up earlier to have a volunteer from the audience come on-stage, President Warren G. Harding.
Two hours after the show, President Harding is found dead in his hotel room. Charles Carter, the Magician, is the main suspect, and Secret Service Agent Jack Griffin is determined to prove his guilt.
Glen David Gold's novel follows the life of Charles Carter, from his childhood days with his seemingly neglectful parents to his first major illusion that makes his name and earns the friendship of Harry Houdini -- and a terrible enemy. From that day on, he strives to create the next, great illusion and in the process learns of a secret from President Harding that will revolutionize the world, but which also puts him in danger. All the while, he struggles with the accidental death of his wife Sarah.
The characters are well-drawn and realistic, and that, mixed in with actual persons from the time period, make for a more believable story. The descriptions of the magic acts are some of the most suspenseful scenes I've read -- case in point is Blackmail, the first big illusion that gets him really noticed in the industry -- and had me eagerly turing the page to find out what happens. As it states in the book, a magician never reveals his tricks so you must read the book to understand what I mean. At the same time, gold creatives a vivid picture of Vaudeville and the life its performers lead. Not to mention the terrific desriptions of the San Francisco of the 1920's.
Full of fantastic charcaters, both real and fictional, this novel is full of excitement, adventure and intrigue.