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by Michael Genelin
Soho, August 2011
323 pages
9.99 GBP
ISBN: 1569479526

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

The shooting of an impoverished student in Bratislava looks like a professional job and since he was impersonating someone else at the time there is a question as to who was the intended target. Commander Jana Matinova is just beginning to investigate the case when she learns that her lover, Peter Saris, a state prosecutor, has also been murdered this time by a parcel bomb. She feels that the two apparent assassinations in the normally quiet Bratislava may be connected. However, before she can begin a proper investigation, she is told that she is too close to the case and is being transferred with immediate effect to Europol, the international police force based at the Hague. Angry at being sidelined, she is determined to continue unofficial investigations, particularly since she seems to have been assigned to what is a non-job. However, it turns out that her predecessor has suddenly disappeared and she determines - again unofficially and assisted by her Europol colleagues - to look into it.

Her investigation takes her from the Netherlands to other parts of Europe, including Vienna and Prague. She has as a travelling companion an elderly magician, the uncle of the murdered student, who has seized upon Jana in the hope that he may be able to assist her in solving the murder of his nephew. There is a lot of talk of magic and illusion and they are used not entirely successfully - as a kind of metaphor for a plot in which nothing is quite as it seems. The frequent reference to the smoke and mirrors, trickery and deception found in magic shows becomes a little wearing, particularly when Jana analyses her own situation in the light of them.

The usefulness of the professor to the plot at all is questionable and Jana seems to spend a lot of her time protecting him. In fact, Genelin himself seems unsure of the man's role and has to resort to inventing an incident entirely irrelevant to the plot, almost as if he were trying to find something for his creation to do. Nor is Jana herself a rounded character in this novel, however much she may have been developed previously in the series. In particular, much as the author may stress how 'devastated' she was by the death of her lover, nothing of this comes out in what she says and does a classic case of telling and not showing.

The plot itself is a little dense as it moves from city to city and country to country and there are so many characters that it becomes increasingly difficult to remember who they all are. The locations themselves, however, are described in convincing detail. There are occasional instances of clumsiness, the use of newspaper headlines to suggest where the story is leading being a prime example, even if they do mislead to a certain extent. It is open to question whether it is believable that a conspiracy of the size described in THE MAGICIAN'S ACCOMPLICE could be thwarted essentially by the efforts of just one policewoman, however talented; nevertheless, the ending is something of a surprise, even though the identity of villains had already been suggested.

Arnold Taylor is a retired Examinations Board Officer, amateur writer and even more amateur bridge player.

Reviewed by Arnold Taylor, January 2012

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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