cover image A Criminal Magic

A Criminal Magic

Lee Kelly. S&S/Saga, $25.99 (432p) ISBN 978-1-4814-1033-5

In Kelly’s nuanced tale of an alternate 1920s America, Prohibition outlaws magic, and “shine” is a potent and addictive spell-made drink that only lasts for one day after its creation. Joan Kendrick is so desperate to save her family that she hitches her magic to a rising star of the black market, gangster Harrison Gunn. Alex Danfrey is looking for redemption and revenge, so he becomes a federal spy in the Shaw Gang, which includes Gunn and Joan. When Joan creates a spell that can preserve shine eternally, a discovery that will rock the world, Alex has to decide whether to bring down the Shaws or rescue Joan and her family. Kelly excels at contrasts in her characters: the innocent who is increasingly willing to submit to darkness to protect her loved ones, the not-so-innocent climbing back from darkness through good acts, and their inevitable clash despite the bond between them. The dark underbelly of Washington, D.C., in Kelly’s arcane Jazz Age is the perfect shadowy setting for two young characters who think they are nobodies, but upon whom history will turn. This urban fantasy, always electric, reads like jazz itself. Agent: Adriann Ranta, Wolf Literary Services. (Feb.)