Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Book Review: The Zombie Ball by John Gaspard (Eli Marks #6)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Characters, good mystery
Cons: Seems to wander a bit in the first half
The Bottom Line:
Charity event
Marred when a murder takes place
In this fun, fast book

You’ll Have a Ball

I have come to enjoy the Eli Marks mysteries.  The fact that Eli is a magician initially pulled me in, and the complex mysteries keep me coming back.  So when I saw that The Zombie Ball was coming out, I quickly added it to my reading schedule.

While this is the sixth book about the magician, it’s a good place to jump in and meet Eli.  It’s a flashback story taking place not too long after his divorce from his first wife, Deirdre, was finalized.  There are a couple of scenes that frame the action in the present, but there is nothing that really spoils any of the ongoing storylines, so you can meet Eli and a few other characters here and get a glimpse into his past.

The action revolves around a Zombie Ball.  Yes, there is a magic trick with that name, but in this case, we are also talking about an annual fund-raising event that takes place in Minnesota.  It has morphed from its original bar crawl days into a fancy dinner, entertainment, and dancing event where some of the guests dress up as zombies to various degrees of makeup and costume.  Eli has been hired at the last minute to perform when the originally scheduled magician backs out.  He hasn’t been going out much since his divorce, but he needs the money, so he agrees to do the gig that night.

Of course, Eli quickly sees tensions going on behind the scenes, including two competing top donors who everyone is handling with kid gloves and trying to keep away from each other.  Then someone is murdered, and Eli finds himself involved with the case.  Will he figure out what really happened?

The murder actually takes place relatively late in the book.  Normally, I might find that frustrating, but it worked here.  Of course, the time isn’t wasted since we are meeting suspects and gathering clues that we don’t know are important, yet.  Once the murder has been discovered, all those little things come back into play, and the solution is brilliant.

The action all takes place over the course of one day, so we don’t really miss the series regulars whom Eli hasn’t met yet.  There wouldn’t have been time for any sub-plots involving them, anyway.  While I was disappointed not to spend time with them, I did get pulled into the action pretty quickly.

This is a shorter book than I normally read, and I was able to easily breeze through it in a couple of days.  Yet stretching the action out to fulfill an arbitrary word count definitely would have hurt things.  The book is the right length for the story told.

While not many of the series regulars make it into this book, we do see a few.  Uncle Harry gets a few scenes, but we see more time with Deirdre and her new husband, Homicide Detective Fred Hutton.  Makes sense we’d see him since this is a mystery, right?  I can find these characters annoying at times, but in this case, I enjoyed our time with them.

This gives the new characters plenty of time to develop, and they are well done.  I had a few suspicions on where the story was going, but the suspects kept me guessing until Eli pieced things together at the end.

We get to learn a bit about magic along the way, including the title trick.  No secrets are shared here, but I still find the magic included enjoyable.

The Zombie Ball is a fast, fun read.  Those who are already fans of Eli will enjoy this look back in time.  And those new to the series can jump in here and discover just how enjoyable the series is.

Looking for more magical mysteries?  Here are the rest of the Eli Marks Mysteries in order.

NOTE: I was sent a copy of the book.

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