Writing Death and the Conjuror was an absolute joy because it was my opportunity to pay tribute to all the classic mysteries I’ve read and admired over the years. I’m a devotee of the Golden Age greats like Agatha Christie, John Dickson Carr, Ellery Queen and Christianna Brand – to name a few. As such, I wanted to play around with some of the key tropes and archetypes of the classic Golden Age Mystery. But at the same time I was keen for the story to remain faithful to the format. Therefore, it’s an affectionate homage to the locked-room mystery, but also an attempt to revive the genre and show that it still has plenty to offer.
Part of the fun of writing a vintage whodunit is coming up with a diverse cast of suspects. With that in mind (and hopefully in keeping with the theme “victims and villains”), I’d like to introduce some of the key players in Death and the Conjuror:
Joseph Spector – Spector is a retired music hall conjuror. He has a fascination with the macabre, the uncanny, and the occult, as well as a particular knack for unravelling complex puzzles. He is therefore frequently in-demand as a solver of mysteries, with a penchant for impossible crimes. To him, a mystery is like a magic trick: work out how it is done, and the who will not be far behind.
George Flint – Flint is an able police inspector, though he lacks the perspicacity to unpick the sequence of impossibilities he is confronted with on the Rees case.
Anselm Rees – A famous experimental psychiatrist, settled in London to escape political turmoil in his native Vienna. Unfortunately for him, London did not prove to be the safe haven he had anticipated.
Lidia Rees – The doctor’s daughter, and an accomplished psychiatrist in her own right. Her relationship with her father is somewhat fraught, as she is fiercely determined to emerge from his shadow.
Marcus Bowman – Lidia’s fiancé, and something of a wild card. A wealthy “bright young thing” with little to recommend him.
Floyd Stenhouse – “Patient A,” a virtuoso concert violinist with certain paranoiac tendencies, as well as a series of cryptic (and possibly prophetic) dreams. Stenhouse is a sensitive and artistic soul, but there is something dangerous about him.
Della Cookson – “Patient B,” an esteemed and popular stage actress, the life of every party, with a tendency toward overindulgence. Her private life is a mystery in itself, though it’s clear that she harbours her share of secrets.
Claude Weaver – “Patient C,” a successful author of lurid fiction who also happens to believe he is being stalked by a mysterious man in black. A delusion, or something much more dangerous? Weaver is a recluse by nature, who has been coaxed into visiting a psychiatrist by his wife.
Now that you’ve met my cast of characters, it seems only fair to warn you that one of them is a killer. Which one? That’s for Spector and Flint to find out – unless you, the reader, can beat them to it.