Magicians and mystery writers have much in common--they present complex puzzles but try to distract us from solving them--magicians with lovely assistants and writers with red herrings. Chris Grabenstein tackles both magic and murder in his latest John Ceepak mystery, Mind Scrambler, and succeeds in baffling and entertaining us while exploring, but never spoiling, a few tricks of both trades.
Ceepak and partner, Danny Boyle, away from police duties at Sea Haven, New Jersey, are in Atlantic City to obtain a deposition. Danny runs into Katie, his high school sweetheart who is working as a nanny to the children of prestidigitator Richard Rock, star attraction at the hotel/casino where they are staying. Katie is obviously frightened and asks for help, but before they can find out what is wrong she is murdered and it is up to Ceepak and Danny to find the killer. Easier said than done since they are dealing with masters of illusion. Was Katie having an affair with one of the dancers in the show? Was Rock's big number more than just a trick with mirrors? Are other magicians trying to steal his secrets and would they murder to get them? Will Ceepak's code of honor guide them through the maze of lies and deceits that seem to stonewall their investigation? More murders follow before Ceepak is able to see past all the trickery and corner a vicious killer. Grabenstein proves that in the hands of a real pro, the combination of mystery and magic can result in a sure winner.