Tags: ghost

The Shadow

The Ghost Strikes Back

The Ghost Strikes Back -- If image des not show, click here to be taken to a site which features the original cover, and info about this writerThis weeks novel is "The Ghost Strikes Back" (available on the pulpgen  website, either as one long .pdf or two short ones {1}{2} .

A couple years ago, I read a story from late in the run of this series, and, although it had some points of interest, it honestly seemed a little tired.  As a result, I must have been carrying around this week's novel as a .pdf file for a year or two, not particularly feeling any incentive to get to it in any hurry.

I was wrong.

On a day when I suddenly found myself having to kill some time, I opened the file on my PDA and figured I'd read the first five or ten screens of text, and then decide whether to delete it.

I kept on reading it --whenever I could spare a few minutes, until I finished it, and quite enjoyed it!

Premise:  George Chance is an immensely successful, retired, stage magician.  Missing the excitement of performing, he has decided to use his skills as a magician to aid the police against crime.  To do this, he has created an alternate identity, "The Ghost", an unknown detective with a skull-like face.  Aiding him in this quest are his magician's assistant, Merry White, and various people from his performing days, including Tiny Tim, a midget, and a former magician's assistant who was his exact double (permitting Chance to keep people from suspecting him -- his assistant can assume his identity whilst he is doing his investigations under the persona of The Ghost).

The Story:  On the request of a friend who believes his sister is being beguiled by fake mediums, George Change decides to put on a public performance, demonstrating that all the things mediums can do which supposedly prove them genuine can be done by a magician who freely admits he's a fake.   Immediately before the performance, though, Chance is warned of dire consequences by one of the mediums he is setting out to debunk, if he proceeds with the performance.  Chance has his friend (the distraught brother) take a seat in a "spirit booth" on-stage, and proceeds with his demonstration -- only to find, when he draws aside the curtains of the spirit booth, that his friend, a young, healthy man, has died mysteriously.

Chance is arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to death.

However,  all of that happens offstage because, before his arrest, his former assistant and double had taken his place.

Chance now has to race against time to try to figure out who committed the murder, and how, with only his Ghost persona to fall back upon, before his assistant ends up in the electric chair in his place.

He quickly finds out that the same medium had predicted a number of other deaths, recently.  However, is the medium responsible for these deaths, or is he a dupe as well?  How were the apparently accidental deaths brought about?  What is the connection between the disparate victims?  And will this common thread lead him to the murderer before he will have to contrive a way to substitute himself back for his double in the death chair?

Assessment:  Highly recommended.  I greatly enjoyed this story.  The author manages to deftly combine a tale of suspense with a mystery.  Also, I was pleased to note, on the basis of what I learned of stage magic in my mis-spent youth, that the author plays fair with the magicians techniques he sites:  he accurately refers to specific sleight-of-hand techniques, and works  into the story opportunities for the hero to get himself out of  various situation using a magicians flare for mis-direction.  The characters have a little more depth than the usual two-dimensions, evincing convincing personalities which extend beyond what is strictly necessary to advance the plot.  And the final reveal of the killer took me by surprise, but fit with the facts established in the course of the story.

Conclusion:  This was only the second story in the series, which may account for why it felt so much fresher than the later story I had read earlier.  I will definitely be on the lookout for other stories in the series -- but, if this one is any example, my suspicion is that the earlier stories will probably be the better ones.

Anyone have any suggestions as to where or how I can find them?