Published: June 4, 2019
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: Fantasy, Mystery
Pages: 336 (Hardcover)
My Rating: 4.5/5.0
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Ivy Gamble has never wanted to be magic. She is perfectly happy with her life—she has an almost-sustainable career as a private investigator, and an empty apartment, and a slight drinking problem. It’s a great life and she doesn’t wish she was like her estranged sister, the magically gifted professor Tabitha.
But when Ivy is hired to investigate the gruesome murder of a faculty member at Tabitha’s private academy, the stalwart detective starts to lose herself in the case, the life she could have had, and the answer to the mystery that seems just out of her reach.
Magic for Liars is a murder mystery set in a private high school for magical students, though it reads a little more noir detective story than Harry Potter-esque fantasy. Ivy Gamble is a PI with a drinking problem and a troubled relationship with her family. She also has no magical ability to speak of – seems her sister Tabitha got all the magic. When a faculty member is found bisected in the library, Ivy is called in by the headmistress who suspects it was more than a theoretical magic spell gone awry…
I’ve seen few reviews of this book and sadly none of them have been particularly glowing. I, on the other hand, really enjoyed this book and found it to be rather touching. Ivy and Tabitha haven’t gotten along for most of their lives – Tabitha manifested magical ability and she was sent away to a prestigious private high school for mages where she absolutely blossomed. Ivy finished out her years at her regular ol’ high school and dealt first hand with stressful family issues that Tabitha dealt with only distantly. Ivy is obviously very resentful of her sister and acutely feels the disparity in their lives from looks to careers. As Ivy investigated the murder of the faculty member (a close friend of Tabitha’s) the sisters make an awkward effort to get to know one another again. Those particular scenes felt so genuine and I wanted so badly for them to get along.
The actual investigation portion almost was second fiddle to what was going on in Ivy’s headspace. She interviews students and faculty alike and she finds some clues, though since magic is involved (something Ivy is unfamiliar with since Tabitha was so distant from her) she has either has to get assistance or puzzle it out on her own. I thought the book ended well and the resolution was pretty satisfying, though I can’t say I was surprised when the picture finally came together. In a way, I’m glad I could actually guess whodunnit and the author didn’t have to suddenly reveal all this information that the reader wasn’t privy to.
Overall, I thought this was a great, somewhat emotionally touching read, the latter of which kind of surprised me. I can see why some people may have found this boring. Like I said, the mystery part is almost secondary to what’s going on with Ivy and her sister and even the budding relationship between Ivy and one of the handsome teachers. Despite this (or perhaps because of this) I loved it.