Are you a fan of a good whodunit? Well acclaimed short story writer Tom Mead has recently released his debut novel Death and the Conjuror. Published on 2 February 2023, this is a fun and intriguing locked-room murder mystery. For me this book has an Agatha Christie feel about it, especially as it it set in 1936. I definitely enjoyed this aspect of the novel, particularly as I have developed a slight obsession with Agatha Christie lately 🙂
When an esteemed celebrity psychiatrist is found murdered in quite a grisly fashion, Scotland Yard detective Inspector Flint is completely stumped. You see Dr Anselm Rees’s body is discovered in his locked study with no way in or out. Although suicide is briefly considered, the nature of the death proves that this is an impossible conclusion. And this is when Inspector Flint approaches the mysterious conjuror Joseph Spector who looked ‘like somebody who could get away with any crime.’ Yet Flint does not approach Spector to accuse him of murder, rather the inspector hopes that the master illusionist will help the police solve this impossible murder.
Joseph Spector is definitely the star of the novel, using his skill as a conjuror to study the evidence. He also has a tantalising sense of mystery about him. I almost felt sorry for Inspector Flint who in my view plays the dowdy sidekick who is continually trying to catch up with the inquisitive mind of Spector. It was clear from reading Death and the Conjuror that Flint’s relationship with Spector has a backstory as the characters are not strangers to each other. I suspect the backstory may have been explored in the Joseph Spector short stories that have previously been published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock’s mystery Magazine. However as a reader to this debut novel, I feel that finding out more of their joint backstory would have enhanced my enjoyment of this novel.
Likewise I would have liked to have explored the wide array of other and very intriguing characters in more depth. This includes a kleptomaniac, a jealous under study and Lidia, the enigmatic daughter of the murdered psychiatrist. When the novel opens Lidia who is following in her father’s footsteps as a psychiatrist with a brilliant mind is engaged to the Bright Young Thing Marcus Bowman who Flint describes as a ‘complete dunce, and smarmy with it.’ The mystery of the ill-fitting relationship is explained as the novel progresses, but not in depth and I would have loved to have explored this further. Maybe it is just me being nosey, but I would have also enjoyed exploring Lidia’s relationship with her father more.
Death and the Conjuror is a fun, fast and easy read. I am happy to report too that I did not suspect the killer, nor was I disappointed with the ending. I enjoyed the twist Tom Mead devised. I am also pleased that this is the debut novel and I hope that Death and the Conjuror is the first novel in a new murder mystery series.
Thank you to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me to the blog tour of Death and the Conjuror. To read the reviews from my fellow book bloggers also on the tour please see below.