Death and the Conjuror – Tom Mead

Published By: Head of Zeus
Pages: 272
Released On: 02/02/2023

1936, London. A celebrity psychiatrist is discovered dead in his locked study. There seems to be no way a killer could have escaped unseen. There are no clues, no witnesses, and no evidence of the murder weapon. Stumped by the confounding scene, Inspector Flint, the Scotland Yard detective on the case, calls on retired stage magician turned part-time sleuth Joseph Spector.

Spector has a knack for explaining the inexplicable, but even he finds that there is more to this mystery than meets the eye. As he and the Inspector interview the colourful cast of suspects, they uncover no shortage of dark secrets… or motives for murder. And when a second murder occurs, this time in an impenetrable elevator, they realize the crime wave will become even more deadly unless they can catch the culprit soon.


Thanks to Head of Zeus for the gifted proof of this title in return for an honest review.

I’m always amazed by authors who write a locked-in murder mystery, because obviously – well, I say obviously, I assume – the author knows the ending before they start. They know the who-dunnit, the how-dunnit, the why-dunnit, and then they little clues and whatnot throughout the book. But I’m yet to read one of these kind of mysteries and be able to guess the outcome, so I take my hat off (if I had a hat) for any author who can pull this off.

Tom has created such a vivid image of the time, almost as if he’s giving us a first-hand account of the time, and judging by the photo in the book jacket, I’m assuming he wasn’t actually around in 1936, but there’s so much truth to it that’s just fabulous.

I loved Joseph Spector as a character. There’s lots of other interesting people in it, but for me, this is his book. He’s an enigma of a fellow, and I instantly saw Sir Ian McKellen playing him. He has that sort of gravitas about him. I was never fully sure if I was on his side, if he was a goody or a baddy, if he was telling the truth or not, and that was really exciting to read.

I see Tom is a short story writer, and this is his debut novel. I’m not one for short stories generally, so I can’t say if I’ve read an of his work previously, but if this novel is anything to go by, I can’t see him having any difficulty in getting an interested audience. It’s like magic itself, the way he’s constructed sentences, it flows so well.

At 250+ pages long, you may not see it as a particularly quick read, but it flows so well, and it’s paced so well, and it is so intriguing that you just can’t put it down, and before you know it, you’ll have read half already.

Like any good murder mystery, this is full of red herrings, hints and tricks, clues, suspects – it’s chockablock full of the traditional mystery aspects, but with added sparkle. By combining policing with illusion, it’s just the perfect marriage and, whilst I’m sure it’s been done before, I can’t recall any, and this thoroughly deserves it’s place amongst the good and the great.

I didn’t see the conclusion coming at all. You twist and turn and are spun around throughout the novel, and then you’re blindsided and I feel Tom deserves a round of applause for it. What I really liked was that in the big conclusion speech at the end, Tom has provided us with little clues for the reader. When certain things are referenced, he has provided little asterisks with the original page number. So for example, if the detective mentions a metal spoon (he doesn’t, so no fear of spoilers here), Tom would then provide the page number for when said metal spoon appeared in the main story. This means we’re included in the speech and we can refresh our memories, as it’s hard for any reader to remember every little aspect of the story. I just thought it was a nice touch.

It’s definitely got this golden age of murder mysteries feel about it. Similar to that of Agatha Christie, GK Chesterton, even Daphne du Maurier (although not as dark) about it. It’s lovely to read a modern book that would fit so well with the books of that age.

I can’t wait to see what Tom Mead has to offer in future books, whether he sticks with the mystery genre or not, I think he’s got a promising career in front of him.

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