Book: Carter Beats The Devil

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Yay — I finished a book! I was reading The Gormenghast Trilogy but that is going to be an ongoing project (thanks for the book, Mom! Now I can work on it all year…). So it’s back to more manageable book-sizes for me.

Loved, loved, loved this. Loved the magician character, loved the Bay Area setting, loved the historical references, loved the romance (since, as is my preference, it’s sort of a sideline of the story, not the main event). Loved it completely and was so sad when it ended, although it was a happy ending.

Charles Carter, turn-of-the-century magician, favored son of San Francisco, puts on a show in 1923, during which is present President Harding. Mr. President participates in the show… and a few hours afterwards, dies suddenly in his hotel room under mysterious circumstances. Is Carter The Great to blame? What happened to the President? Why is Carter so amiable about the investigation? How many tricks does he have up his sleeve, anyway? And what’s in that cigar tube?

Such fun. Carter is an entirely sympathetic character, which is exactly what I wanted right now. He is prone to sentimentality, a kind man, with no head for business but a driving passion for magic. He works hard and becomes very successful… but not without tragedy along the way. As he travels the world, having adventures and meeting famous folk, we learn delightful bits of trivia about the various historical characters and more notably, about the Bay Area at this time in history. I was so happy to read about Neptune’s Beach in Alameda, and to hear more about the various parks and attractions that used to pepper Oakland, and the descriptions of North Beach when it really was just the Italian family part of town. I loved it all.

A few times I was on the edge of my seat, so to speak, hoping against hope that Carter would, indeed, beat the devil. And he does. Not without sacrifice, of course, but he is a smart, kind, talented man and the author clearly has affection for this character — so he is allowed to have a good life. I was so glad. I needed a happy ending.

Would highly recommend this to anyone, especially those familiar with the Bay Area!

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