Carter Beats The Devil
12 May 2013 1 Comment
Author: Glen David Gold.
Summary: On August 2nd 1923, at the dawn of the Jazz Age in San Francisco, the master magician Charles Carter walks on to the stage of the Curran Theatre for the most daring performance of his life. Its climax involves a battle with the devil himself, and this evening President Warren G Harding is taking park. Two hours later President Harding will be dead.
Charles Carter, dubbed Carter the Great by none other than the supreme showman Harry Houdini, was born into privilege but became a magician out of need: only when dazzaling an audience with his illusions can he defeat his fear of loneliness. But with every step into the twentieth century the stakes are growing higher, as technology and the cinema challenge the allure of magic and Carter’s stunts become increasingly audacious. Until the night the president dies, and Carter finds himself pursued not only by a Secret Service agent but by a host of others desperate for the terrible secret they believe Harding confided in him.
Rating: ★★★★☆ 4/5
Review: Apparently this book “seamlessly blends reality and fiction,” but i wouldn’t know, because i had no idea who Charles Carter and Warren Harding were before i picked the book up. Therefore this review is from an ‘it’s all fiction’ point of view.
Best thing about this book: Charles Carter. He was the thing i consistently loved throughout the book. He’s funny and sweet and just the perfect amount of conceited for it to come across as charming. He’s light-hearted, but sensitive. He’s realistic (as a character, obviously i have no idea what the real Charles Carter was like). He also falls for independent and fascinating women, who i also loved, so he gets kudos for that.
Every other character in the book i was see-sawing on. My feelings could go up and down; i really liked them one minute and really didn’t like them the next. But what i appreciated was that i always felt something towards them. What i hate most is characters that leave me ambivalent or lukewarm. I would enjoy a book full of characters i hated more than a book full of characters i didn’t really care about at all. And i had an opinion on every character in Carter Beats The Devil.
The mystery of whether Carter murdered the president or not was the one plot line i was least interested in, and with good reason, as it turned out my instant suspicions on it were correct; for me it wasn’t a mystery at all. Far more interesting was Carter’s life, his illusions and his scrapes with the Secret Services and an old rival.
I had heard that the second half of the book was disappointing, after what the first half had set in motion. I did not find this at all (thankfully). If anything, the second half was better than the first, filled with unrelenting suspense, danger and entertainment.
The only thing that was a let down for me, was the last 20 pages. They were just superfluous. I found every word boring and pointless. The only thing they contained that was of any value was the answer to the Harding murder mystery, but this was no surprise to me. It could have ended on a more exciting, high and hopeful note, but instead Gold drags it out outlining the exact happily ever after, plus a couple of meaningless addendums. If i ever re-read this book, i’ll know to stop reading a few chapters early.