Reviewed by Scott A. Johnson
Written by Gord Rollo
Published by Leisure Books
A stranger comes to town lugging a beat-up trunk as he looks for a man who is running from his past. That’s the gist of Gord Rollo’s Strange Magic.
Wilson Kemp (not his real name, by the way) is a drunk, a clown, and an ex-magician who can’t hold down a job, thanks to his addiction to vodka. His wife, beautiful but not too intelligent, knows nothing of his shady past as a world-famous escape artist (or his real name). His daughter — nonplussed by the glaring facts that Daddy always smells of alcohol, no longer lives with her and mommy, and gets made fun of for ruining a child’s birthday party (because he was drunk) — idolizes him. Then a stranger (conveniently named “The Stranger” through most of the book) comes to town with revenge on his mind and a trunk on his back. The trunk also talks to him as he goes about committing one heinous act after another, but not actually taking down Kemp when he has the opportunity.
While the premise of the book is decent, the execution of it leaves a great deal to be desired. Characters make choices that seem odd, even for characters as damaged as these. Much of the violence in the book seems gratuitous, and there are even a few characters that seem to exist for no real purpose as far as the plot goes. In addition, the writing style leaves a great deal to be desired and, with one notable exception, never seems to engage the reader much. There are also several simple flaws that the editor should have caught like words (correctly spelled) that don’t mean what the author intended. One that comes to mind was the phrase “fowl mood,” which means he felt like a duck rather than “foul mood,” which means he was having a bad day.
That exception, however, is worth two knives all on its own. And without giving any important plot points away, it comes in the form of a deliciously twisted dream. During the dream, Kemp’s daughter has been kidnapped and to find her, he follows a trail made up of her severed fingers. This scene alone will make the reader cringe and his flesh crawl right off his scalp.
On the whole, Strange Magic is forgettable. For a premise with much promise, and with one exception, this book falls flat.
2 1/2 out of 5
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