In the world of magic, the Bullet Catch is an illusion in which a magician appears to catch a bullet fired directly at him. The magician catches the bullet in his mouth or, sometimes, his hand.
In John Gaspard’s novel, The Bullet Catch, Chicago magician Eli Marks has one possible murder to solve and yet another murder to prevent.
When Eli grudgingly attends his 15-year reunion, he feels he finally appears on the radar of his once unapproachable high school crush, Trish– after all, her shady husband spends the evening tossing back too many drinks and hanging on other women. But he doesn’t count on Trish being a widow the next time he sees her . . . the very next morning! The death is ruled a mugging, but a mugging-that-might-not be-a-mugging, and Eli uses his connections with the DA’s office (his ex-wife) and the police department (her new husband) to dig around for the truth. Meanwhile, his old school friend, Jake, is set to star in a movie – a biopic of a magician who died performing the Bullet Catch. The production is sinking fast, and Jake is sure someone believes the death of the leading man will generate box-office gold.
With Eli Marks, Gaspard has created a witty, sympathetic, hero who is almost unnervingly likable. He is intelligent without being arrogant, loves his family and friends, displays common sense, and yet is fallible. Eli seems to be able to win anyone over. Even his ex-wife, with whom he claims to have a contentious relationship, shows him concern and warmth on occasion. I would like to be able to say Eli was so perfect, I did not believe the character, but I bought him completely. I am still trying to figure out how Gaspard managed to develop such a wholly lovable hero.
The Bullet Catch has a quick pace and dialogue that engages the reader from the first page. In fact, I was struck by how much this book relies on action and dialogue. The novel contains very little internal analysis or examination of emotions by its characters. When I had finished The Bullet Catch, my impression was that I had been reading a screenplay, rather than a novel. I was not surprised to read later that Gaspard has directed six low-budget movies and written books on the subject of low-budget film making.
The “screenplay” feel of the book is evident from the first chapter. The Bullet Catch is the second in Gaspard’s “Eli Marks Mysteries.” As with any series, the author is faced with the question of how to bring the reader up to speed on what transpired in previous novels, if at all. The Bullet Catch opens with Eli in the chair at his therapist, to whom he proceeds to relate the plot points of the prior book. The scene may as well have been prefaced by the announcement, “Previously, in the Eli Marks Mysteries . . .” The therapist’s office is a functional device, but a bit heavy-handed.
Nevertheless – screenplay, novel – a little of both – I enjoyed the author’s smart incorporation of details about the magic industry, as well as Eli’s relationship with his much-older uncle, Harry. John Gaspard has written a great character into an original storyline –If it seems to have been written to fit into an allotted time slot on cable TV, it doesn’t detract significantly from the reader’s enjoyment of the novel. I will definitely be seeing/reading more of Eli as Gaspard expands this promising mystery series.
Paperback: 282 pages
Publisher: Henery Press; First edition (November 4, 2014)