The Murder Wheel by Tom MeadThe Murder Wheel by Tom Mead
Series: Joseph Spector #2
Published by Penzler Publishers on July 11, 2023
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Historical Mystery
Pages: 288
Format: eARC
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In London, 1938, young and idealistic lawyer Edmund Ibbs is trying to find any shred of evidence that his client Carla Dean wasn’t the one who shot her husband dead at the top of a Ferris Wheel. But the deeper he digs, the more complex the case becomes, and Edmund soon finds himself drawn into a nightmarish web of conspiracy and murder. Before long he himself is implicated in not one but two seemingly impossible crimes.

First, a corpse appears out of thin air during a performance by famed illusionist “Professor Paolini” in front of a packed auditorium at the Pomegranate Theatre. Then a second victim is shot dead in a locked dressing room along one of the theatre’s winding backstage corridors. Edmund is in exactly the wrong place at the wrong time, and attracts the suspicion of Scotland Yard inspector George Flint. Luckily, conjuror-turned-detective Joseph Spector is on the scene. Only Spector’s uniquely logical perspective can pierce the veil of deceit in a world of illusion and misdirection, where seeing is not always believing.

I love the combo of magicians and murder. Add in the Golden Age feel and Mead’s Joseph Spector novels have me hooked.

This time around, Edmund Ibbs is a rather new solicitor helping represent Carla Dean who is accused of killing her husband at the top of a Ferris Wheel. Ibbs, an aspiring magician, takes a break from work to attend a performance of the Great Paolini. A second dead man is revealed during one of the tricks, a man slightly connected to the Dean murder. Luckily, Joseph Spector, retired magician and sometimes Scotland Yard consultant, is also in the audience.

What follows is a high-stakes investigation by Spector and Ibbs. The characters are well-written and believable. There are several potential suspects and a big baddie who may or may not be involved. As in any good mystery involving magic, there are plenty of misdirections and distractions. We’ve got essentially two locked-room mysteries here and while the author plays fair I didn’t guess the whodunnit.

I’m looking forward to the next locked room Spector runs across.

About Tom Mead

Tom Mead is a Midlands-based author. He has previously written for Ellery Queen’s Mystery MagazineAlfred Hitchcock Mystery MagazineLitro OnlineFlash: The International Short-Short Story MagazineLighthouseMystery Scene and Mystery Weekly (amongst various others). He is a great admirer of golden age authors of the locked-room mystery subgenre (John Dickson Carr, Clayton Rawson, Helen McCloy, Christianna Brand et al) and has written many stories in tribute to these masters. His story “Heatwave” was selected for inclusion in The Best Mystery Stories of the Year 2021 (ed. Lee Child) and his debut novel Death and the Conjuror is coming soon from Mysterious Press.


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