cover image Shadow People

Shadow People

James Swain. Tor, $25.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-7653-2995-0

Now you see it, now you don’t: Swain, a magician himself, takes the concept of a psychic conjurer pursued by dark spirits and spins it into pedestrian straw in this supernatural thriller, a sequel to 2012’s Dark Magic. Magician Peter Warlock, who was born with an internal demon that he struggles to control, lives in parallel worlds of good and evil. Amorphous “shadow people” shanghai him into the near future, where he pursues “Dr. Death,” a serial killer of women who do good deeds. Back in his own time, Peter, supported by nonpsychic girlfriend and stage assistant Liza and FBI agent Garrison, fends off his own destructive impulses, the forces of Satan, and the spells of a lustful young witch. Lame dialogue, flat characterizations, partially undigested lumps of stage magic history, and lapses in credibility (how could a tattoo artist embellish 90% of his own body?) reveal the creaky apparatus behind this ambitious but unconvincing fictional sleight-of-hand. Agent: Robin Rue, Writer’s House. (June)