Judith Janeway’s thriller The Magician’s Daughter is an impressive debut with a lot of promise. This is the first of a projected series featuring Valentine Hill, a young street magician in search of her past, a dangerous past that quickly comes back to haunt her present.
Her mother was a grifter who used her young child in her various schemes and scams, but refused to give her any information about her birth and her father, except that he was a magician. Eventually they lose contact, and Valentine is raised by her mother’s step sister, but without her birth information she has problems with the bureaucratic necessities of everyday life. She has been keeping an eye open for years for signs of her mother, but has had no luck, until one day while busking in Las Vegas. She attracts the attention of a wealthy looking gentleman and his daughter who tell her she looks just like the man’s lady friend back in San Francisco. Certain that her mother is engaged in one of her cons, Valentine sets off to find her. What she finds is trouble: murder, undercover FBI operations, an elaborate drug scheme, and the inevitable con.
The plot gets a little overly complicated, and barely any of the central figures are what they seem to be, sometimes two or three times removed. But that is to be expected in any thriller worth its weight in red herrings. What The Magician’s Daughter has that makes it such a good read is a compelling, attractive character to hold up the series. Valentine Hill is as compelling and attractive as they come; think a young Stephanie Plum.
Brought up by her aunt to follow three rules: don’t lie, don’t swear, don’t hit unless you’ve been hit first, she is nonetheless not beyond punching a glass jaw when necessary. She’s smart with a remarkable memory, especially for numbers. She is independent and wants it known that she can take care of herself, even when it seems quite obvious she is in over her head and more vulnerable than she would like anyone to know. And she can juggle and pull a three foot rabbit out of her hat; what more can you ask for?
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