Carter Beats the Devil is Glen David Gold’s first novel, and what a first novel it is.
Set in 1920s America, the entire book is a whirlwind of magic, science and the breakthrough of new technology and inventions.
The story starts with the shocking sudden death of President Warren Gamaliel Harding, who mysteriously perishes two hours after appearing on stage with the books namesake, Charlie Carter the Great. Prior to the evening’s performance, President Harding confides a dreadful secret to Carter, which pins him to the President’s sudden passing.
Carter becomes embroiled in the centre of a major investigation into the late President’s death, and we follow him through an intricately wound plot that keeps up the suspense to the very last page.
Whilst Gold takes us on a rollercoaster ride shrouded in mystery and magic trying to get to the bottom of the investigation, the primary aim of the book is to recapture the era of illusionists and escapologists, with greats like Houdini.
Gold’s eye for detail with the descriptions of Carter’s tricks and props is stunning, and as a reader you feel as though you are sat front row, witnessing every single illusion first hand.
From the very first page, you are sucked into Carter’s fast-paced world and introduced to the world of the 1920s vaudeville.
We are drawn into the wonderfully whimsical world of magic, but like many great illusions, all is not as it seems.
Whilst Carter works tirelessly performing his sleight-of-hand tricks in a different venue every night, and progresses to become on a par with the world famous Houdini; underneath the poised exterior Carter is a terribly lonely individual. His fiery passion for magic and trickery stems from a childhood of abandonment in a lonely house. To get through the long dwindling days, Carter would spend hours perfecting card tricks to perform for his brother.
Reading about Carter’s introduction into magic, and how he developed his skills growing up, as a reader we are drawn to his erratic and inquisitive personality, and as the story unfolds it becomes increasingly difficult to put this book down.
There are many twists and turns knitted into the body of Carter Beats the Devil, and it consistently keeps up a quick pace throughout every chapter. With this in mind, it’s not difficult to keep up with what is going on, and only adds to the heightened excitement of the investigation at hand.
Whilst I would happily recommend this book to anyone, I wouldn’t give away any more than what is detailed above. Like any great conjurer will tell you, a magician never reveals his secrets. The same can be said about revealing how this story ends; it would simply ruin the magic.
- Leanne Leveaux