Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a magical murder mystery that's also an exploration of familial bonds and how easily they can be twisted. It touches on the lies we tell each other and the lies we tell ourselves, and at the end, is a stark illustration of the old saying "The road to hell is paved with good intentions."
Ivy Gamble is a private investigator in a world where magic is real and those who possess it go off to attend magical boarding schools (although the Osthorne Academy for Young Mages is definitely not Hogwarts, nor is it intended to be). She is approached by said headmaster at Osthorne Academy to solve a murder. But Osthorne is also where her twin sister Tabitha works, the sister who wields magic as Ivy cannot, and who has been estranged from her for seventeen years, since the death of their mother from cancer.
Ivy knows she shouldn't take the job, but she does anyway. This humble beginning spirals into a story that rips open the festering wounds between Ivy and her sister and lays Ivy's own hard-drinking character defects bare. I suppose you could call Ivy an unreliable narrator, but the lies she tells herself are easily discernible from the context. Even the book's ending may be a lie. We just don't know.
The mystery is well constructed and the clues are fairly planted, and when the identity and motivation of the murderer is revealed the reader (or at least this reader) says, "Oh, of course." The character study of the protagonist and her sister is given equal importance, and the two storylines are expertly woven together. The pacing is good and the tension is expertly ramped up. This is also one of the few books I've ever read where (view spoiler)[abortion--in this case magical abortion--is a pivotal plot point, and no one angsts over it. It's just a medical procedure that one of the teenage mages needs done. That approach was rather refreshing. (hide spoiler)]
This was a very solid, absorbing read, and definitely one of my favorite books from last year.
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