In author Alfred M. Albers’ newest novel, A Pocket Full of Voices, his appealing and adventurous main character, John Michaels, is at it again. For those not familiar with Albers’ series, Michaels is a semi-retired, world-renowned, American magician with a penchant for playing an off-the-record “private investigator” when friends are in need. This time, the tale is about a very old, dear friend from the entertainment business, veteran ventriloquist Gary Eagan.
The book begins with the seemingly implausible arrest of Eagan for his alleged involvement in a scam that has resulted in numerous thefts of money and valuable items from the rooms of visiting celebrities to the East coast gambling mecca of Mount Hope City. All of the thefts occurred while the celebrities and their entourages were attending Eagan’s popular, long standing show at the high profile Placid Hotel and Casino. When Eagan’s attorney asks him who he can contact as a character witness, the call goes out to John Michaels. And with that, the story explodes.
A constant sense of urgency propels the story forward at breakneck speed. Gary Eagan is released on bail and permitted to perform his daily shows, but all the while, he’s preoccupied by the possibility that his innocence might not be provable. “Little to go on,” an initial absence of seemingly any logical explanation, and a rapidly looming trial date, establish the need for speed. And the faster the story moves, the more unexpected and surprising become the plot’s changes in direction, detours and dead ends. But methodically and meticulously, Michaels begins to fit together the pieces of this intriguing mystery. His effectiveness as an under-the-radar sleuth can be directly traced to his magician’s mind – nothing’s impossible if you think it through and plan it properly.
Albers has a passion for magic. He has studied the art of the craft for over 35 years. He has been a part-time professional magician since 1981. He has taught, mentored and shared his knowledge with others. The result is a close, intimate relationship with his character, John Michaels. At times, Michaels is more than Albers’ alter-ego; they often seem one and the same. Albers builds similar bonds with the rest of his core cast of characters. As a result, the reader accepts them as real people with whom they too have a relationship. But this sense the reader is given that they are not separate from the story, that they are participating in it, starts with the character John Michaels. Given Michaels’ persona and presence, one easily can understand his appeal to readers.
The pace of the story never wanes. Even near the end, which I initially regarded as anti-climactic, I ultimately realized that Albers was performing one more writer’s slight-of-hand. He had convinced me that I dare not fail to read every last word lest I miss one more significant detail. In many ways, A Pocket Full of Voices by Alfred M. Albers is the quintessential mystery novel. You can put it down for a bit if you must, but you won’t be a happy reader if you do so. This book was conceived to be read non-stop, just like the story happens. If you can keep up with them, Albers and Michaels will become your favorite PI/ magicians.
(Reviewed by Joseph Yurt for Reader Views)