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Book Talk: Magician turned FBI agent

As Sheriff Jessup walked into the church, the doors locked behind him. He grabbed Adam Alsop by the neck and started to choke him. Mrs. Alsop tried to stop Jessup, but he knocked her out. Bear McKnight, who was assisting Reverend Curtis by turning the pages in the church’s oversized Bible, ran to Alsop’s aid, but Jessup bit a large chunk from his shoulder, severing a major artery.

While Alsop and McKnight lie dying on the floor, Rev. Curtis tried to help Jessup by “ridding him of this thing.” Jessup beat Curtis to a bloody pulp. He then spoke into a phone that hadn’t been working for days. He said, “It’s done.” On his knees, he folded his hands and thanked the archangel for showing him the correct path as the church exploded.

FBI Agent Vonda Mitchum is in charge of the scene where the tragedy occurred, but she can find no trace of the victims. Former magician turned FBI Agent Jessica Blackwood decides, against instructions, to widen the search area. She finds McKnight’s naked body dangling from a tree far outside the area where debris from the blast would likely be found. This sets up a contest of wills between Blackwood and Mitchum in Andrew Mayne’s sequel, “Name of the Devil,” to his intriguing first novel in the Jessica Blackwood series, “Angel Killer.” (See my Oct. 27, 2021 review.)

As was the case in the first book, the novel aspect of “Name of the Devil” is Jessica’s background as a magician. She is the fourth generation from a famous family of illusionists, the Blackstars. Although she’d changed her last name when she went into law enforcement, it’s her knowledge of magic and creating illusions that makes her central to the solution of “impossible” crimes.

Her former boyfriend and current stalker Damian always seems to know Jessica’s whereabouts, although she must fly around the country to track down clues. Whenever she is threatened, Damian seems to be able to bail her out. Even when an army unit that is controlled by a Mexican cartel has her pinned down, someone — maybe Damian — comes to her aid.

Jessica believes that there was a “sixth man” involved in the church incident, but Mitchum — and the FBI as an organization — would like to close the case. As Jessica pursues her “gut feeling” in violation of her specific orders, she risks her future with the FBI. But she became a law-enforcement officer to seek justice. In this case, justice leads to a man who is beyond the reach of the bureau or, for that matter, any other agency on earth.

Author Andrew Mayne, star of A&E’s magic show “Don’t Trust Andrew Mayne,” is a master of intrigue. As was the case in the first novel in this series, his protagonist has the ability to look beyond the obvious. She knows the difference between real evil and the illusion of evil. In “Name of the Devil,” both come into play.


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Jim Glynn may be contacted at



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