|Date Published||05 January 2023|
When a young woman is discovered in a magician's box, pierced through with swords, a detective and a celebrity mentalist join forces to solve the most baffling illusion of them all.
This is the first in a new series from Swedish crime queen, Camilla Lackberg, and this time she’s writing with Henrik Flexeus, a household name in Sweden as a mentalist.
As I understand it, a mentalist is primarily an entertainer – magician, psychologist, mind-reader and hypnotist all rolled into one. And Lackberg and Flexeus have created two protagonists in their own images. Mina Debari is a young detective with the Stockholm police force and Vincent Waldron is a celebrity mentalist. They join forces to solve the case of a young woman found brutally murdered inside a traditional magician's box – a trick where swords are seemingly thrust through the body of a lovely assistant – but this time it's for real.
Mina and Vincent both have issues. Mina is an isolated figure at work and is unable to make friends because of her severe OCD. She lives alone, frantically sanitising wherever she goes. But she meets her soulmate in Vincent, a man high on the spectrum and with few social graces until he comes alive on stage. He's made a habit of hiding behind his celebrity persona but he is able to understand and empathise with Mina.
A magically minded maniac seems to be on the loose. Three victims are gruesomely bumped off by way of three iconic stage tricks. Mina is part of a small experimental police team charged with solving the murders but they struggle to find a connection between the victims. And despite Mina's fondness for Victor, the rest of the team find it hard to accept him and his relevance to the investigation. This is a shame because Vincent and his shadowy past seem to hold the key to the whole mystery. Vincent loves solving complicated puzzles and the murderer obliges by sending him increasingly complex clues.
There is a certain atmosphere of lunatic hysteria about this book. However, the world of the mentalist in an interesting one and the set-piece illusions are intriguing and lend themselves to suitably bizarre slayings. It’s all a bit Midsomer Murders at its bloodiest but, on the side of normality, Vincent does have a reasonably happy home life with a long-suffering wife and three fairly well-balanced children. Mina manages to hold down a well-paid and well-respected job and seems to be an effective, if puzzling, member of the team. She has a cast of interesting colleagues with their own back stories, which will no doubt be developed in future stories. Mina has an aspect of her personal life that is hinted at but as yet has not been fully explored. Mina and Vincent obviously have deep feelings for each other but he is a married family man and she can hardly bear to touch another human being for fear of germs. Not exactly a basis for a fulfilling relationship.
A thrilling and all action finale neatly sets up the scenario for the next book and I will be interested to read more of this most intriguing pairing.
Reviewed 29 April 2023 by Viv Beeby