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A USA Today Bestseller!
"[A] well-paced, evocative, and adventurous historical novel..."—Publishers Weekly, STARRED Review
"This is a book in which storylines twist, spiral and come together again in an ending as explosive as a poof of smoke from your chimney...or a top hat." — Oprah.com
Water for Elephants meets The Night Circus in The Magician's Lie, a debut novel in which the country's most notorious female illusionist stands accused of her husband's murder - and she has only one night to convince a small-town policeman of her innocence.
The Amazing Arden is the most famous female illusionist of her day, renowned for her notorious trick of sawing a man in half on stage. One night in Waterloo, Iowa, with young policeman Virgil Holt watching from the audience, she swaps her trademark saw for a fire ax. Is it a new version of the illusion, or an all-too-real murder? When Arden's husband is found lifeless beneath the stage later that night, the answer seems clear.
But when Virgil happens upon the fleeing magician and takes her into custody, she has a very different story to tell. Even handcuffed and alone, Arden is far from powerless-and what she reveals is as unbelievable as it is spellbinding. Over the course of one eerie night, Virgil must decide whether to turn Arden in or set her free... and it will take all he has to see through the smoke and mirrors.
"Smart, intricately plotted...a richly imagined thriller." —PEOPLE magazine
"This debut novel is historical fiction that blends magic, mystery, and romance."—Boston Globe, Pick of the Week
"It's a captivating yarn.... Macallister, like the Amazing Arden, mesmerizes her audience. No sleight of hand is necessary. An ambitious heroine and a captivating tale are all the magic she needs."—Washington Post
This well-paced, evocative, and adventurous historical novel from Macallister, a poet and short story writer, chronicles the career of America's preeminent female stage illusionist at the turn of the 20th century, who, as the Amazing Arden, created the lurid, controversial stage act known as the Halved Man. When Arden's husband is found murdered following her performance in Waterloo, Iowa, she falls under suspicion, particularly after she goes on the lam. Later the same night, officer Virgil Holt, en route to his home in the nearby town of Janesville, nabs Arden and charges her with her husband's murder. Holt escorts her to his office where she maintains her innocence and urges him to release her. The skeptical Holt compels Arden to relate her life's story, from her birth as Ada Bates in Philadelphia to her growing up on a Tennessee farm. And so the tale begins, as Arden describes learning to dance and fearing her older cousin Ray, who self-mutilates and fancies himself a magical healer. Arden hires on as a laundress at the Vanderbilts' Biltmore estate in North Carolina, where she befriends the gardener, Clyde Garber, and they run away to New York City. She begins work as a chorine before entering the magic business under the tutelage of the crusty, colorful Adelaide Herrmann. After Adelaide retires, Arden takes over the traveling magic show. She again crosses paths with Ray to set in motion the violent conclusion, bringing Arden's rollicking life full circle and satisfyingly capping off this top-notch novel.