Giveaway ends 7/24
IR– Which book are we talking about today?
TM– My book is called Death and the Conjuror, and it’s a mystery set in 1930s London, written in the style of the classics by authors such as Agatha Christie, John Dickson Carr and Ellery Queen. My protagonist is a retired music hall magician named Joseph Spector, who’s called in by Scotland Yard to assist them in solving three apparently impossible crimes: two murders and the theft of a priceless painting.
IR– What inspired the idea for your book?
TM– I’m a huge fan of Golden Age Detective fiction (GAD); in particular the subgenre referred to as the “locked-room mystery.” Really, that’s an umbrella term which encompasses a variety of “impossible crimes”- puzzle plots where the question is not just WHO committed the crime but HOW they managed to pull it off. My favourite author in this particular subgenre is John Dickson Carr- he was an absolute master at coming up with apparently impossible problems, throwing in a variety of ingenious complications, and then unravelling everything in dazzling style. So it was always an ambition of mine to try and construct a locked-room mystery of my own.
IR– What comes first for you — the plot or the characters?
TM– Before I wrote Death and the Conjuror, I’d already featured my series character, Joseph Spector, in a number of short stories. But his character, as well as that of others in the series (such as Inspector George Flint) developed over time whereas the plots come to me more or less instantaneously. Then, once I have a framework, I tend to pile on the complications to try and give the reader something really dazzling. I read a lot of books about stage magic and the psychology of illusion, particularly techniques for misdirecting an audience. This is doubly useful, because not only does it allow me to write about the world of magic- which I find fascinating- but it also enables me to employ certain tricks of the trade in constructing my own mysteries.
IR– Who is your audience?
TM– Anyone who enjoys a mystery, really. What appeals to me about crime fiction is the battle of wits between writer and reader. The idea that the writer presents the reader with all the clues they will need to solve the mystery for themselves. They’re all there in plain sight, and it’s up to the reader to see if they can beat the detective to the punch!
IR– How do you interact with your readers?
TM– I’m very responsive to readers on social media, and I’m always keen to encourage people with their own writing. I’ve run creative writing workshops in the past, and I’m happy to read new work, to provide feedback and to discuss the practical side of things. I’m also delighted to trade book recommendations!
IR– What is the first book that you remember reading?
TM– I was very lucky to grow up in a household that was crammed with murder mystery paperbacks. The first ones I remember reading were of course by Agatha Christie- for me, she was the gateway to a whole new world of classic fiction. I started with the big names, such as The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Death on the Nile, Murder on the Orient Express, etc. But a couple that really stick in my memory are Murder in Mesopotamia and Hercule Poirot’s Christmas, as both of these contain elements of impossible crime and really helped to stimulate my interest in that subgenre.
IR– How do you define success as an author?
TM– This is a great question, and something I’ve thought about a lot lately. Because to be honest, the very fact my book is coming out at all is beyond my wildest expectations. And for it to be issued by such a legendary publisher as Mysterious Press is honestly a dream come true. For a long time Death and the Conjuror was just a secret project I was working on; something very personal, which I was highly protective of. So to me, it’s already a success. But I suppose more generally speaking, success as an author comes from writing the kind of books which you yourself would want to read. The wonderful feedback I’ve received from early readers makes me feel as though I’ve achieved that goal, and I couldn’t be happier.
IR– What is an underrated author that you think everyone should read at least once?
TM– My favourite author is John Dickson Carr, and although he has his devotees I happen to think he’s grossly underrated in the crime fiction world. He revolutionized the impossible crime subgenre, and produced a string of absolute masterpieces throughout the 1930s and ‘40s- books which I’m keen to pay tribute to in my Spector stories. I think anybody with even the mildest interest in murder mysteries should sample some of his works featuring his great series detectives, Dr. Gideon Fell and Sir Henry Merrivale.
IR– What are you working on in the near future?
TM– I’ve finished the second Joseph Spector mystery, which is called The Murder Wheel, though I can’t confirm when it will be out just yet. Right now I’m in the middle of the third book, coming up with a string of devilish puzzles for Spector to solve. I also recently completed a locked-room mystery aimed at young adult readers, co-authored with my friend Michael Dahl. We don’t have a publisher for that one at the moment, but we have high hopes that it may develop into a series as well.
IR– As an author what do you think makes a good story?
TM– The experience I’m trying to give readers is the same thing I myself experienced when I was first reading the classics by Christie and Carr. It’s a feeling of retrospective illumination when you are getting towards the end of a mystery; the point at which all the little clues and inconsistencies (things which may have slipped past unnoticed) suddenly begin to fall into place and make sense. I want readers to kick themselves and say, “Why didn’t I think of that?” when we get to the solution.
IR– What are your top 5 favorite books?
TM– This is a really difficult question, and of course my answer varies depending on my mood, but here goes:
- The Hollow Man by John Dickson Carr
- Green for Danger by Christianna Brand
- The Egyptian Cross Mystery by Ellery Queen
- The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
- Through a Glass Darkly by Helen McCloy
IR– What are you reading now?
TM– Right now I’m reading The Wife of Ronald Sheldon by Patrick Quentin. It’s a great classic mystery by a legend of the genre. Recent reads which I’ve enjoyed including Under Lock & Skeleton Key by Gigi Pandian, which is a wonderful magic-themed locked-room mystery that’s plotted and written with real panache. The characters are great, the dialogue is snappy, and I hope the main character, Tempest Raj, stars in many more books. I’ve also loved The Five False Suicides by James Scott Byrnside, The Red Death Murders by Jim Noy, The Supper Club Murders by Victoria Dowd, plus Elly Griffiths’s Brighton Mysteries, Martin Edwards’s Rachel Savernake books, and Anthony Horowitz’s Hawthorne series.
IR– What would your dream library look like?
TM– It would be huge, of course, and it would contain all the classic (and unjustly forgotten) mysteries I’ve been trying to track down for years. I already have pretty much everything by my favourite writers, Agatha Christie, John Dickson Carr, Ellery Queen et al. But there are some books which I’m desperate to collect, including Into Thin Air by Horatio Winslow and Leslie Quirk, The Death of Laurence Vining by Alan Thomas and Withered Murder by Peter and Anthony Shaffer. I also spent a long time hunting for an affordable copy of Christianna Brand’s highly sought-after novel Death of Jezebel but managed to add it to my collection last year. The book has since been reissued by British Library Crime Classics, which is a wonderful sign of the resurging interest in golden age mystery.
IR– If you had a secret room that opened by pulling a book on a shelf, what book would you choose?
TM– The Door to Doom by John Dickson Carr.
Read Our 5-Star Review of this book
Book Bites: Death and the Conjuror by Tom Mead
Giveaway ends 7/24 Detective fiction began with a locked door scenario and the concept still provides the basis for awesome armchair sleuthing. When I read a mystery I almost always know who the bad guy is long before the literary sleuth comes close. I love a good story so I read to the end to find out why. When I haven’t got a clue as to who or why or in this case, how, That is a book I will share with one and all. “Hey, I never saw it coming!!!” Just the title of this book, Death and the…Keep reading
Death and the Conjuror
by Tom Mead
June 27 – July 24, 2022
Virtual Book Tour
A magician-turned-sleuth in pre-war London solves three impossible crimes
In 1930s London, celebrity psychiatrist Anselm Rees is discovered dead in his locked study, and there seems to be no way that a killer could have escaped unseen. There are no clues, no witnesses, and no evidence of the murder weapon. Stumped by the confounding scene, the Scotland Yard detective on the case calls on retired stage magician-turned-part-time sleuth Joseph Spector. For who better to make sense of the impossible than one who traffics in illusions?
Spector has a knack for explaining the inexplicable, but even he finds that there is more to this mystery than meets the eye. As he and the Inspector interview the colorful cast of suspects among the psychiatrist’s patients and household, they uncover no shortage of dark secrets―or motives for murder. When the investigation dovetails into that of an apparently-impossible theft, the detectives consider the possibility that the two transgressions are related. And when a second murder occurs, this time in an impenetrable elevator, they realize that the crime wave will become even more deadly unless they can catch the culprit soon.
A TRIBUTE TO THE CLASSIC GOLDEN-AGE WHODUNNIT, WHEN CRIME FICTION WAS A BATTLE OF WITS BETWEEN WRITER AND READER, DEATH AND THE CONJUROR JOINS ITS MACABRE ATMOSPHERE, PERIOD DETAIL, AND VIVIDLY-DRAWN CHARACTERS WITH A METICULOUSLY-CONSTRUCTED FAIR PLAY PUZZLE. ITS BAFFLING PLOT WILL ENTHRALL READERS OF MYSTERY ICONS SUCH AS AGATHA CHRISTIE AND JOHN DICKSON CARR, MODERN MASTERS LIKE ANTHONY HOROWITZ AND ELLY GRIFFITHS, OR ANYONE WHO APPRECIATES A GOOD MYSTERY.
Praise for Death and the Conjuror:
“This debut, a tribute to John Dickson Carr and other Golden Age masters of the locked-room mystery, will appeal to nostalgia buffs and fans of the classics”
Library Journal, April 2022 (**STARRED REVIEW**, Debut of the Month)
“Set in London, Mead’s stellar debut and series launch, an homage to golden age crime fiction, in particular the works of John Dickson Carr, introduces magician Joseph Spector. […] Mead maintains suspense throughout, creating a creepy atmosphere en route to satisfying reveals. Puzzle mystery fans will eagerly await the sequel.”
Publishers Weekly, April 2022 (**STARRED REVIEW**)
“Mead’s debut novel is a valentine to the locked-room puzzles of John Dickson Carr, to whom it is dedicated […] Mead faithfully replicates all the loving artifice and teasing engagement of golden-age puzzlers in this superior pastiche.”
Kirkus Reviews, April 2022
Published by: Mysterious Press
Publication Date: July 12th 2022
Number of Pages: 254
ISBN: 1613163193 (ISBN13: 9781613163191)
Series: Joseph Spector #1
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | The Mysterious Bookshop
Read an excerpt:
Olive already had the phone in her hand. “Two three one, Dollis Hill,” she announced. “Dr. Anselm Rees has been murdered.”
While she provided a few scant details, she looked around the room and noticed something.
“The windows are locked,” she said as she hung up the phone.
“Mm?” Della sounded startled.
“The windows. They’re locked on the inside.” To prove this, she gripped one of the handles and rattled it. It would not move, and the key protruded from the lock.
“Then how did the killer get away?”
“What do you mean?”
“He can’t have come out through the hall. I was there the whole time. And not five minutes ago—not five minutes—I can tell you that the doctor was alive and well in this room because I heard him talking on the telephone.”
Della thought about this. “It can’t be locked.” She reached out and tried the handle for herself. But the windows did not budge.
“It’s locked on the inside,” said Olive, “just like the door.”
Della turned and looked at the corpse. He had sunk down in the chair like an unmanned hand puppet.
In the far corner of the room lay the wooden trunk. Olive caught Della’s eye and nodded toward it. Della frowned incredulously. Olive shrugged, as if to say, Where else would he be?
The two women crept across the soft plush carpet toward the trunk. Olive looked at Della and held a finger to her lips. She seized the poker from the fireplace and raised it above her head. Then she gave Della a quick nod.
Della leaned forward and wrenched open the trunk.
Olive let fly a fierce war cry and swung the poker like a tennis racquet. But all she hit was empty air. The two women peered inside the trunk. It was perfectly empty.
Olive led the way to the kitchen—but not before pulling shut the study door behind her, sealing in the late Dr. Rees once again.
They both felt slightly better after a tot of brandy. No less horrified, but more prepared to deal with the practicalities of the situation.
“What I don’t understand,” Della said, “is where the killer could have gone.”
“Nowhere,” said Olive. “There was nowhere for him to go.”
Excerpt from Death and the Conjuror by Tom Mead. Copyright 2022 by Tom Mead. Reproduced with permission from Tom Mead. All rights reserved.
Tom Mead is a UK crime fiction author specialising in locked-room mysteries. He is a member of the Crime Writers’ Association, International Thriller Writers, and the Society of Authors. He is a prolific author of short fiction, and recently his story “Heatwave” was included in THE BEST MYSTERY STORIES OF THE YEAR 2021, edited by Lee Child. DEATH AND THE CONJUROR is his first novel.
Catch Up With Our Author:
Twitter – @TomMeadAuthor
Facebook – @tommeadauthor
Plus, join the Instagram – #TomMead Party
Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!
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Great interview. It was fun getting to know this author a little more. 🙂
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Thank you very much for this fun interview!
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This was a blast.
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