Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Book Review: The Self-Working Trick (and Other Stories) by John Gaspard (Eli Marks #8)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Twelve magically fun short stories
Cons: All cons vanished as if by magic
The Bottom Line:
Eli and magic
Short stories collected here
Delightful for all

Eli Faces Lots of Crime in This Short Story Collection

After seven full length novels in the Eli Marks series, author John Gaspard decides to collect the short stories he’s written with the character, sprinkle in a few new stories, and release them as the eighth book in the series.  The result, The Self-Working Trick (and Other Stories), is a great place for fans old and new alike.

If you haven’t met Eli yet, he is a magician who also runs the magic store opened by his uncle, the famed magician Harry Marks.  And, this being a mystery series, he also finds himself involved in quite a few tricky real-life mysteries where his skills as a magician come in handy helping the police figure out what really happened.

While this book is being sold as the eighth book in the series, it’s actually a great place to jump in and meet the characters.  These stories don’t rely heavily on knowledge of the series characters and their relationships.  Anything you do need to know is included in the stories, and there is nothing that would really spoil anything from the novels.  These will give you a feel for the series without ruining the pleasure of watching things unfold.

This book consists of twelve stories, two of which have been previously published and the third was released as an exclusive for the author’s newsletter readers.  That means the rest are brand new for fans.

What will you find here?  Eli must help his ex-wife and her new husband figure out what happened in a bizarre murder/suicide case.  Eli finds himself being questioned by the police when someone who gave him a one-star review is found dead.  Eli finds himself being sent in by the police to perform magic for a man who refuses to come out of his house.  And Eli and Harry figure out what happened to a man shot in front of a crowd on Halloween night.

There are a couple of stories that don’t involve a crime.  They were still compelling, and I enjoyed seeing a little different side of Eli in those stories.

And there were stories that involved Eli (and Harry) talking to the police and solving a case while sitting in a bar.  I had an Encyclopedia Brown vibe with these stories.  And, considering how much I loved Encyclopedia Brown as a kid, that’s a compliment.

What I really enjoyed about these stories is how, in each case, what appears to be a perfect crime comes down to a principle of magic that Eli recognizes and is able to use to solve the case.  We’ve got locked rooms and other types of puzzles that seem so simple once Eli has figured things out.

If you are like me and don’t want to know too much of how magicians do their tricks, don’t worry.  We get the principles of magic explained to us, but not the specifics of any of the tricks that come up, so we can still be amazed when we see a magic act again.

There’s some humor thrown into the stories as well.  Eli narrates with a wry observation on the world around him that is fun.  Occasionally, there’s the perfect line of dialogue as well to make you smile or laugh.

The final story in the collection is the longest.  “The Self-Working Trick” involves an audience member being killed during the opening night of a play.  For this story, John Gaspard included a crossover with the Como Lake Players Mysteries he writes as Bobbie Raymond.  This story made me want to dive into those mysteries.  I have the first, so it’s just a matter of making time to enjoy them.

I keep saying this short story collection is fun, and that’s because it is.  If you are looking for some short mostly mystery fiction that will thoroughly entertain you, you’ll be glad you picked up The Self-Working Trick (and Other Stories).

Once you've met Eli, you'll want to check out the rest of the Eli Marks Mysteries.

Included Stories:
1. The Invisible Assistant
2. The Trick That Cannot be Explained
3. The One-Star Review
4. The Vanishing Man (Redux)
5. The $100 Gift Certificate
6. The Crazy Man’s Handcuffs
7. The Secondary Convincer
8. Magician in Trouble
9. The Death of the Black Knight
10. The 38 Steps
11. The Last Customer
12. The Self-Working Trick

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book

1 comment:

  1. I was already adding this to my TBR before you mentioned Encyclopedia Brown but that really sold me! I was a huge Encyclopedia Brown fan as well.


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