Magic for Liars
October 28, 2020 7:23 AM - by Gailey, Sarah - Subscribe

Ivy Gamble has never wanted to be magical. She is perfectly happy with her life. She has an almost-sustainable career as a private investigator, and an empty apartment, and a slight drinking problem. It's a great life and she doesn't wish she was like her estranged sister, the magically gifted professor Tabitha.

But when Ivy is hired to investigate the gruesome murder of a faculty member at Tabitha’s private academy, the stalwart detective starts to lose herself in the case, the life she could have had, and the answer to the mystery that seems just out of her reach.
posted by soelo (4 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Huh. I was just talking about this book with someone not half an hour ago (... and in fact, it was because the Fanfare post on A Deadly Education from a couple of days ago led to a discussion about books set at magic schools.)

I liked this one. The detective as emotional hot mess has been a staple of the mystery story since at least the days of noir, and Ivy Gamble is one of the messiest. At first, I was concerned that was derailing the story, but it works because it turns out that is the story; this is, first and foremost, a genre-savvy urban fantasy about the characters who don't end up being the Chosen One, or even chosen at all, and how feeling like a side character in their own lives affects and distorts their psyches.

The mystery itself didn't work quite as well for me -- it was easy to feel a couple of steps ahead of the detective in identifying both the perpetrator and the motive. But while I could have wished for a story that worked on both levels, on the level the book does work, it works very well indeed.
posted by kyrademon at 9:36 AM on October 28, 2020

I agree the solution to the mystery wasn't as shocking as I might have expected it to be. I often find the atmosphere and characters of a mystery more important than the puzzle part. Which is odd since I love puzzles. I loved the climax and appreciated the storyline of the chosen one and the corollary to Ivy and Tabitha's relationship. I can get sick of the antihero detective too, but Gailey really makes it work here.

A Deadly Education is on my list and I just finished Spinning Silver, only my second book by Novik, but it won't be my last. I am not a fan of fictional dragons, but I am planning to read everything else of hers.
posted by soelo at 10:23 AM on October 28, 2020

This book was an unexpected delight. One that dragged me from cover to cover. I went and bought River Of Teeth immediately after finishing this.

The mystery/s was/were fine, but I was 100% there for the sisters. I was viscerally outraged when I realised that Tabitha didn't give two shits about Ivy, and the reconciliation had just been another part of the lies.
posted by Lorc at 10:07 AM on October 31, 2020

I honestly found this book way too depressing. And then on top of it (major spoilers ahead), the ending was unsatisfying. I mean how could Alex just randomly do this magic that happens to be exactly the same as Tabitha's? Didn't that stick in anyone else's craw? Also, just letting her walk away at the end? Meh.
posted by Literaryhero at 6:59 AM on November 12, 2020

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