I knew The Magician’s Daughter by Judith Janeway was a mystery novel when I chose it, but the title kept making me think of a fantasy novel so I kept expecting paranormal creatures to suddenly appear. Of course I had the flu at the time. A kind of flu-induced delirium could explain my persistently weird thoughts. The truth is The Magician’s Daughter doesn’t need magical creatures to make it grab you and not let go. Ms. Janeway has gotten the Valentine Hill mystery series off to a great start with its first novel and I think mystery fans are going to love this new kick-butt protagonist. And one of you is going to win a copy, so be sure to enter our giveaway!
Twenty-four-year-old Valentine Hill has very little information about who she is. She has no birth certificate and doesn’t know when or where she was born. She doesn’t know who or where her father is, although she believes he was a magician just like she is. She can’t get a Social Security card, so she’s forced to work under the table making crap wages with no recourse.
She does know who her mother is all too well – her mother, Elizabeth Hill, is a consummate con artist with a long string of aliases. Valentine was a prop and participant in her mother’s cons from the day she was born until she finally was able to escape and go to live with her aunt. There she had to unlearn what her mother had taught her and become grounded in her Aunt June’s simple rules for life, honest and trustworthy values that have become a touchtone for Valentine in how to live a good life.
Valentine now performs street magic as The Great Valentina in front of the Golden Pirate Casino in Las Vegas, as a draw to entice people inside for the stage show. She always begins her act by warning her audience, “Reality is an illusion. Illusion is reality, and nothing is what it seems.” And then she, hopefully, astonishes them with her sleight of hand and illusions enough that they drop money into her hat, money she needs to at least pay the rent every month.
Today’s act starts off no differently than any other day’s except that her assistant, Jeff, who’s supposed to watch the money and ensure no one steals it, is AWOL – damn him. But then everything changes when a well-dressed young woman drags an older man up and points her out. Uh oh is her first thought. What did she do wrong? But that’s not it at all. It’s how she looks that’s attracted them. You see, Valentine is the spitting image of her mother.
“Anime-girl said in a loud voice, ’See, Dad? I told you,’ and pointed at me. The audience shifted their attention to the girl.
The dad ignored his daughter. He pulled his sunglasses down his nose to stare at me with a flat gaze. I’d had a lot of experiences with drunks and hecklers so they rarely fazed me. I’d even had a couple of stalkers, one of the reasons I gave Jeff a percentage of the hat. But this guy wasn’t the stalker type. No, he snapped his fingers and people came to him. Why had he trekked over to the Golden Pirate to give me the once over?”
That these people know who her mother is would have sent Valentine running as far away as possible in the past because who knows what horrible con her mother might have played on them. But Valentine is currently on a quest to find her mother and finally get some honest answers out of her, if that’s possible. Valentine wants her birth certificate so she can stop living in the shadows. And she wants to know who her father is. She doesn’t think either one of those things is too much to ask of the woman who gave birth to her; however, her mother has been tap dancing around both of those things for twenty four years, so she knows it’s not going to be easy to get any real information out of this con artist.
“’Actually I’m Ashley, but dad calls me Ash.’…
‘I think Flame fits your persona better than Ash,’ I said. She [Anime-girl] flashed a brief grin, pleased. I hated being manipulative, but this was the closest I’d come to tracking down Elizabeth in five years. ‘Nice to meet you. I’m Valentine Hill.’
Ashley’s face fell. ‘Hill, not Hull? I thought for sure you were related to Beth.’
‘Definitely related. Her real name is Hill. How long has it been since she disappeared?’
‘What do you mean, disappeared? She’s in San Francisco.’
I stared at her. ‘Are you sure?’
‘Sure I’m sure. We saw her the day we left. She’s my dad’s girlfriend.’”
So off Valentine goes to San Francisco, despite having to take a Greyhound bus to get there. She’s determined to confront her mother before she can escape again. What she doesn’t bank on is landing literally in the middle of a murder, and that’s just the tip of this complex, weird and twisted iceberg.
Who is the man lying in wait in Beth’s apartment when Valentine arrives? Who is the man dead on the floor? Is the woman in the apartment adjoining her mom’s really an undercover FBI agent or is she part of Beth’s current con? If she is a Fed, why on earth would they expect Valentine to believe her mom, of all people, would be working with them? Can Valentine even trust the FBI, if that’s who they are, or the police? And just who is the gorgeous cab driver with a knight-in-shining-armor complex and handmade Italian shoes, and why is he being so nice to her? Who are Anime-girl/Ashley and her uber-wealthy dad, Beth’s new boyfriend?
It looks like Beth has landed in the lap of high-class San Francisco luxury, and seems happy as a clam there. But she has to be running a con, doesn’t she? There’s always at least one con being played when Beth’s around, isn’t there? But what kind of con is it and who’s involved in it? And is someone actually trying to kill her or Beth or both?
Valentine is a wonderful protagonist. She’s smart as a whip, fiercely independent, is just savvy enough to not take crap from anyone, and she quickly is completely out of her depth in this situation – yet she never gives up. She is determined to do what is right and to live by the principles her aunt taught her, no matter what. As for the others in this novel? Sorry but, if I told you who they really are or what they’re really like, that would create huge spoilers. I will say some nice romantic interest is provided by that cute quasi-knight-in-shining-armor cab driver. Whether Valentine should let her guard down enough to let that happen and/or whether it comes back to bite her in the end is something I won’t tell you. I’m evil that way.
If The Magician’s Daughter is any indication, Judith Janeway has created a really fun mystery series. I can hardly wait to read Book #2! It’s got tons of the kinds of twists and turns I love, and red herrings popping out of top hats left and right like scrambling demented bunnies. Peeling back the layers just leads to more and more layers, and that makes for one hell of a read! Although this story falls under the “buy the premise, buy the bit” category, it’s a really fun roller coaster of a read and I recommend it to mystery readers who love a fun complex puzzle to solve!
Can’t wait to read it?
The Magician’s Daughter was published on February 10, 2015, so it’s available from your favorite online bookseller below (or in the right column for iBooks). Just click on the button/link and download it to read this weekend!
I’d love to get your comments on The Magician’s Daughter, Judith Janeway or her other work, and/or this review.
If you like this review, please contribute to our Reviewers’ Caffeine Fund in the left column. Just a cup a day, that’s all we ask.
One lucky reader will win an ARC (advance readers copy) of The Magician’s Daughter by Judith Janeway!
1) The deadline for entries is Saturday night, 3/7/2015, at 11:59pm EDST. No entries after that date/time will be eligible.
2) This giveaway is open to entries with U.S. mailing addresses only because we do not ship books outside of the U.S.
3) You must be at least 15 years old to enter this giveaway.
4) You must use the Rafflecopter form.
5) If you do not provide a complete mailing address in the Rafflecopter form, your entry will not be eligible. We will only use your mailing address to ship your book to you. Please allow 2-3 weeks for book delivery.
6) That’s it – it’s a very easy giveaway, so have fun and best of luck!
Click here to check out our other book giveaways – bet we’ve got some you’d love to win!