The doorbell rang, giving him something to do. He threw the door open, readying a polite quip.
On the other side was Phoebe.
‘Hello!’ He almost shouted it with joy.
‘Oh, hello,’ she cried in recognition, putting out a hand, which he took and more or less used to yank her across the threshold. She was a delightful study in contrasting simplicity and dash: though her face had been but lightly powdered, and she’d gone sans rouge, she also wore Angelus lipstick – shockingly scarlet – and her hair had been very much done, straightened and held in place with chopsticks. She wore a beaded black silk dress that left an elegant amount of her throat bare.
‘I’m so glad to see you,’ he exclaimed.
observations: In this very complex novel, Phoebe and Carter are comparatively straightforward in their relationship. There are trip-ups along the way, but it is not a spoiler to say that nothing too terrible will happen. Phoebe is blind when they first meet, having lost her sight in an incident that is connected with the plot. Is she psychic, is she a medium, has she developed special powers because of her blindness? You can read the book and find out.
Carter is a real person – Carter the Great, a leading American magician of the 1920s –and the book also features (as we have seen before) a real President, Warren G Harding, and other true-life characters. It is a mystery book, in that President Harding dies, and it’s not clear what Carter’s involvement consists of….
The backstage atmosphere of the magic shows is wonderfully well-done in the book, as is Carter’s childhood, and the feel for San Francisco with its speakeasies and low-lifers. Gold obviously did his research well - for example Angelus lipstick is a real brand of the era. The descriptions of Carter’s illusions are also enthralling.
Links up with: the book featured in Presidents’ week. Black silk dresses featured here and here. A modern novel about Warren G Harding keeps popping up....
The picture is from the Bain Collection at the Library of Congress.