Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Book Review: Club Deception by Sarah Skilton

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters, interesting story
Cons: Weak sub-plots and ending
The Bottom Line:
A magicians’ club
Politics behind the scenes
Fun, could be stronger

Pay Attention to the Woman Behind the Magician

Every year, my local library puts on a local author day, and this last January, I met author Sarah Skilton there.  She had her first adult novel coming out in July, and since it involved magic, I thought it sounded like fun.  Unfortunately, Club Deception didn’t live up to my expectations.

The book follows four characters as their lives begin to intertwine in the world of Club Deception, an exclusive club for magicians in Los Angeles.  There’s Claire, the wife of club president Jonathan.  Jonathan has long cheated on Claire even though she is the mind behind his act and the real person who keeps the club running smoothly.  Then there’s Jessica, the new wife of traveling magician Cal.  Now that they are married, Cal is ready to return to Los Angeles after a three-year absence.  Meanwhile, Kaimi has been hired to sell some pages from a rare manuscript by the master of card tricks.  Finally, there’s Felix, a former baseball player interning with Jonathan in hopes of becoming a world class magician.

Now, this book touts itself as a mystery.  Despite the fact that was are told in the prologue (before we back up six weeks for chapter one) that one of the characters has been poisoned, it really doesn’t fit my definition of a mystery.  Heck, that portion feels like sub-plot because even when we do catch up to the point of the murder, the book focuses on how it impacts the characters and less on the who done it.

And that’s okay because this book is more of a character study than anything else.  I quickly realized that and adjusted my expectations accordingly.  Now this isn’t to say that the book didn’t have an interesting story going on.  There are some secrets from the past, betrayals, and complications for the characters to deal with, and I found myself getting caught up in their stories.  It helps that the inner politics of the club is fascinating, and it features into the story quite a bit.

And this was despite the fact that the characters weren’t always likable.  Mainly, it was Claire I had a problem with.  She is manipulative at times, but at others we see a human who is hurting.  The rest of the cast make some choices I would disagree with at various times, but for the most part I liked them the entire way through.  All four of the characters I mentioned earlier take their turns as our third person point of view narrator, and that gives us amble opportunity to get to know them.  It also gives us different takes on some of the other characters, which is always interesting.

Still, when I got to the end, I felt like it was missing something.  Maybe it’s because I am used to the tropes of the mystery genre instead of general fiction, but I felt like a couple of the storylines didn’t go anywhere.  And I get what the author was trying to do with the ending, but I felt like the characters hadn’t really learned anything from what had happened before and there was more to the story as a result.  Again, maybe that is me.

This is definitely a departure in another way from the mysteries I normally read – the amount of sex on the page.  But it is in keeping with the harder mysteries I listen to, however.

Am I sorry I picked up Club Deception?  No.  There were certainly parts I enjoyed.  I think a little more focus on what the novel wanted to say would have made it stronger, however.

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