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Book Talk: ‘Angel Killer,’ magic, and the FBI

Andrew Mayne is a new author to me, but he is not a new author because he’s written about two dozen novels. I picked “Angel Killer” at random, and will definitely buy more of his mysteries.

FBI agent Jessica Blackwood is called in to the office of Jeffrey Ailes and questioned about her background as a child- and young-adult magician. Her great grandfather, grandfather, and father were magicians, and she learned the craft by watching them and then becoming a performer before she decided to go into police work. Naturally, she wonders why this topic has come up during a discussion with her boss. Then, she is taken to a cemetery where Chloe McDonald has clawed her way partially from her grave.

However, Chloe died two years earlier. As the FBI team views and photographs the scene, Chloe bursts into flame, destroying any evidence that might have been used to answer a series of questions about the situation. But, before the agency makes any progress with the investigation, a plane that was lost 50 years ago in the Bermuda Triangle appears on a sandbar off the coast of Florida.

Again, Agent Blackwood is called on to examine the scene because the dead pilot can be seen in the plane, and he looks exactly as he appeared five decades earlier. Jessica’s boss suspects that someone is using magic tricks to confound the FBI. And, of course, Jessica’s knowledge of the secret craft is essential to the investigation.

A newspaper article refers to Jessica as the “witch” of the FBI, and she is pitted against Warlock, who may have killed both Chloe’s double and the pilot’s look-alike. Ailes believes that Jessica may be on Warlock’s list of future victims.

This is a book that combines a hint at illusionists’ secrets with an intriguing premise and interesting characters. One such character is Damian, a master of disguise who seems to be Jessica’s stalker, but he’s also a font of explanation about magic tricks that Jessica can use to try to catch Warlock before he catches her.

One of the fascinating things about Mayne’s writing is his ability to give the reader just a peek at how certain magic tricks are done without giving away the complete process. That’s because he’s the star of A&E’s magic reality show “Don’t Trust Andrew Mayne,” and he’s worked with such well-known magicians as David Copperfield, Penn and Teller, and David Blaine.

Like a good magician, Mayne weaves enough smoke and mirrors into the work to keep the reader guessing, although it’s sometimes a bit too easy to outguess the FBI, which seems to miss clues that are obvious to anyone who has watched more than one episode of any CSI series. But, if that is a fault, it is easily forgiven because it’s the reason that Jessica is pulled into the case. She catches those clues and explains them, both to her colleagues and the reader.


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Jim Glynn may be contacted at


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