Gillian Thayer is a pastor’s wife in Chicago grieving the loss of stillborn twins, trying to keep busy with a calligraphy business and her teen-age daughter, Crystal. When her husband, Marc, is attacked and accused by an out-of-control counselee, Gillian doesn’t know what to think. Reluctantly the family agrees to take a sabbatical in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula until the publicity over Marc’s attack dies down.
Unbeknownst to them, amateur magician Haydon Owens is also taking a sabbatical in the area, but for different reasons. He has committed four murders in Cincinnati and has decided it is time to make a clean break just to be safe, even though the police have almost no leads on the so-called Magician Murderer. He grew up in Michigan’s UP and decides to head back there to lay low for a while…until he discovers that Crystal Thayer has the same blonde hair, blue eyes, and wire-rimmed glasses as his other victims…
Fatal Illusions is a suspenseful, can’t-put-it-down page turner with well-defined, genuine characters. I felt the Thayers could have been from my own home church: their reactions and ways of thinking and reasoning are similar to my own.
I think I am not alone in that, when I read a mystery, I can’t help but try to put the pieces together and figure out how it is going to end, but, though I may experience some satisfaction in doing so, I don’t really want to figure it out. I want to be surprised. Adam doesn’t disappoint on that front: just about the time I thought I knew where things were leading, the next few pages proved my theory wrong. A few scenes that didn’t seem to make sense to me at first became clear in good time.
It wasn’t until I typed the title that I realized there were so many shades of meaning in it as most of the main characters deal with various illusions or misconceptions.
I don’t normally read scary books, at least not since the last one I read left me afraid to be alone at night for a while. But when I heard that Adam Blumer was publishing his first novel, I wanted to read it. I sort-of know Adam from the Sharper Iron site and I have always appreciated his reasonable, articulate voice there. I almost didn’t want to mention that because I didn’t want that knowledge to cause readers to think I wasn’t being objective. I don’t review any book that I don’t feel I can be honest about, and those of you who have been reading here for a while know I don’t hesitate to share what I don’t like as well as what I like about books. But I honestly can’t find fault with this one except for a couple of what seemed to me to be cliched phrases.
And though I would call Fatal Illusions more suspenseful than scary, I would still recommend not reading it while home alone at night…but I do highly recommend it. I can’t wait to see what Adam publishes next.
(This review will be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of books.)