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The Magician's Lie
Cover of The Magician's Lie
The Magician's Lie
A Novel

A USA Today Bestseller!

"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 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.

More Praise for The Magician's Lie:

"[A] well-paced, evocative, and adventurous historical novel..."—Publishers Weekly, STARRED Review
"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

A USA Today Bestseller!

"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 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.

More Praise for The Magician's Lie:

"[A] well-paced, evocative, and adventurous historical novel..."—Publishers Weekly, STARRED Review
"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

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Excerpts-
  • From the book

    Chapter One

    Waterloo, Iowa

    July 23, 1905

    Six o'clock in the evening

    Tonight, I will do the impossible.

    The impossible is nothing new to me. As I do every night, I will make people believe things that aren't true. I will show them worlds that never existed, events that never happened. I will weave a web of beautiful illusion to snare them, a glittering trap that drags them willingly with me into the magical, false, spellbinding world.

    Before that, I will gather my strength. I will remain motionless, barely even breathing, here in this chair, while preparations happen around me, to me. I feel the feathery touch of brushes on my cheeks, on my chin, as my face is made up for the stage. I feel a heavy thumb press down on my eyelid. Another hand lightly, lightly edges it with kohl. Fingers twist and pin my hair into place, snap a heavy gilded bracelet onto my wrist. It's not possible to ignore the hands, but I focus on not reacting to them, on not reacting to anything.

    I go through the act inside my head, rehearsing my patter and my gestures, seeing the whole night unfold. I welcome the crowd and take charge of the theater. I produce hats from nothingness. I transport coins through the air with a snap of my fingers, turning gold into nothing into gold again. The details of each scene bloom and dive and swarm through my head as I picture the evening from first curtain to final bow, here in the chair, silent and still. Without giving any outward sign, I dance on the inside, hearing every trilling and tender note of the music, practicing every elegant step.

    When it's time, I rise on command and step into the dress held out for me, bowing my head. The dress is always last. This is how we proceed every night, and at least in this way, tonight is the same as every other. The hands close up the back of the dress, waist to neck, and then turn me around to pass three tiny buttons through three tiny loops, covering my throat, and my costume is complete.

    Onstage I will act as I always act. I will do many impossible things. I will make mysteries of scarves and coins, enchant the audience sweetly, misdirect their attention to take them by surprise. I will entertain and flatter. Then I will close the show, as I always do, with the Halved Man. I will cut a man in two, severing him through his trunk, and he will scream for mercy as the blood pours forth. The audience will be unable to believe what they see, but neither will they be able to reject it. It will look entirely real.

    Then I will heal him. He will spring up whole again, wiping away the blood from an expanse of flawless skin, as if there had never been a wound. My healing powers are legendary, though no one really knows their true extent. They don't know how I wish away my own injuries, the cuts and bruises, the burns, the broken bones. It isn't part of my legend, but it's part of my life.

    I'm escorted to the stage, as I always am, another set of footfalls moving exactly in concert with mine.

    This is the routine now, every night.

    This is the life of the most famed female illusionist in the world, very nearly the only one in existence, the life I have made for myself through luck and talent and sheer will. This is the life I have decided to leave behind. This is the life I will end.

    Tonight, I will escape my torturer, once and for all time.

    Tonight, I will kill him.

    Seven o'clock in the evening

    The magician raises the ax high over her head, lets it hang there a moment, then brings it down in one broad stroke.

    The sound of splintering wood rings through the theater. At the same time, there's a scream. It...

About the Author-
  • Raised in the Midwest, Greer Macallister is a novelist, poet, short story writer, and playwright who earned her MFA in Creative Writing from American University. Her debut novel THE MAGICIAN'S LIE was a USA Today bestseller, an Indie Next pick, and a Target Book Club selection. It has been optioned for film by Jessica Chastain's Freckle Films. Her novel GIRL IN DISGUISE, also an Indie Next pick, received a starred review from Publishers Weekly, which called it "a well-told, superb story." She lives with her family in Washington, DC.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from September 15, 2014
    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. Agent: Elizabeth Weed, Weed Literary.

  • Library Journal

    September 15, 2014

    What happens when a magician's illusion becomes real? Ada Bates, aka the Amazing Arden, is the most famous female illusionist in turn-of-the-20th-century America. Touring the vaudeville circuit with her company, Arden is known far and wide for her spectacular Halved Man illusion in which she saws a man in half. While performing in Waterloo, IA, Arden trades in her saw for a fire ax and completes the act with her usual aplomb. Policeman Virgil Holt is in the audience that night, and when the body of Arden's "husband" is found in the Halved Man prop after the show, Holt suspects that Arden has used an illusion to commit a very real murder. When the officer chances upon the fleeing Arden and takes her into custody, she tells him her version of what happened, and it is a story far more moving and spectacular than any of her stage acts. It will take everything Holt has to see beyond the magic to the truth hiding underneath. VERDICT In her historical fiction debut, Macallister, a poet and short story writer who has penned a contemporary novel under a pseudonym, has created a captivating world of enchantment and mystery that readers will be loath to leave. Fans of Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants may also enjoy this title as the exotic settings (circus, magic show) are more of a backdrop for a larger story in both cases than an integral part of the plot.--Elisabeth Clark, West Florida P.L., Pensacola

    Copyright 2014 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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A Novel
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