The Magician's Tale

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Overview

The colors of Kay Farrow's landscape are black, white, and shades of gray. An achromat suffering from total color blindness, Kay possesses a vision that informs her world and sharpens her skills as talented photographer. When Tim Lovsey, a handsome prostitute, is brutally slain, he becomes much more than Kay's subject. She makes it her mission to find his killer, even though the police would prefer to quietly let the case drop. Kay's search for answers takes her back in time to an unsolved serial murder case with...
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Overview

The colors of Kay Farrow's landscape are black, white, and shades of gray. An achromat suffering from total color blindness, Kay possesses a vision that informs her world and sharpens her skills as talented photographer. When Tim Lovsey, a handsome prostitute, is brutally slain, he becomes much more than Kay's subject. She makes it her mission to find his killer, even though the police would prefer to quietly let the case drop. Kay's search for answers takes her back in time to an unsolved serial murder case with disturbing parallels to Tim's killing -- a case whose botched investigation led to her father's ouster from the police force. Searching for the truth, she moves from the back alleys, exotic clubs, and dim corners of San Francisco's underground, where - for the right price -- any sexual fantasy can be realized, to the elite enclaves of the city's most privileged class. Kay knows Tim's murderer resides somewhere within these disparate worlds, at an intersection as gray and murky as the shades that define her world.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
When the police find the decapitated head of a young man with the body nowhere to be found, they are stunned. They begin to piece together the clues and soon find out that the head belongs to Tim Lovesey, a handsome prostitute who worked in the seedy section of San Francisco called Polk Gulch. In this sexually charged neverworld, the police prefer to look the other way and chalk this up as another bizarre crime in an equally bizarre area of town, setting the premise for The Magician's Tale, one of the summer's most chilling thrillers.

Kay Farrow, a professional photographer who was working on a photo book about the hustlers in the Gulch, is the only person who seems to care about the grisly murder, and she proceeds to investigate further, hoping to get to the bottom of this strange crime. Kay, an achromat suffering from an extreme color blindness, possesses a unique vision that informs her world as well as sharpens her skills as a talented photographer.

During Kay's quest for justice, the search takes her back in time to an unsolved serial murder case. This case has many similarities to Tim Lovesey's murder, but the police proceedings are what strike closest to home with Kay. Her father was one of the officers on the case and due to police mistakes the case was never solved, resulting in Kay's father getting ousted from the police force. Kay's further investigation of the murder takes her to Tim Lovesey's "uncle," who tells her the interesting tale of Tim's magician past. Kay learns more about Tim's mysterious history and discovers how he was teamed with his twin sister inamagic act that lasted for most of their childhood.

Risking her life and everything she holds sacred, Kay must sort through the riddles of the past and present before she can uncover the truth in Tim's death. Along her search she faces potential mental and bodily harm as her colorless vision shows her shades of lust, greed, jealousy, and desire.

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A vibrant, melancholy narrative voice and street-true characters lift this moody San Francisco-set thriller above the pack; self-conscious plotting and fuchsia prose threaten to tug it back down. The pseudonymous Hunt (he's a novelist who lives in San Francisco) may be male but he gets deep inside the head of hip heroine Kay Farrow, 35, a photographer who shoots in black-and-white since she's an 'achromat, which means I'm completely color-blind.' Kay has been shooting the young male hookers of S.F.'s sleazy Polk Gulch area. When her favorite subject is found cut to pieces, headstrong Kay, who's a cop's daughter, sleuths. Suspense is low but atmosphere sky high as she prowls the Bay Area night, linking the young man's killing to his background as a magician's assistant; his twin sister, now a legendary dominatrix; a wealthy and ominous local family; a series of slayings 18 years ago, the botched investigation of which pushed Kay's dad to quit the job and her mom to commit suicide. The story line traces a sophisticated puzzle studded with memorably jagged figures jockeying for sexual, financial or artistic power. But in an apparent quest to write a particularly artful thriller, Hunt presses his writing until his prose grows turgid ('Have my provocations finally forced forth some fruit?' wonders Kay). Too many eccentric plot element; Kay's color-blindness; the themes of magic and twins, seem contrived to flesh out the story rather than give it backbone. Ultimately, this is less a well-toned thriller than a rich, at times overripe, study in the sorrow of corrupted relationships. FYI: Hunt is now writing a sequel to The Magician's Tale.
Kirkus Reviews
A color-blind photographer searches the dark side of San Francisco for the killer of the street Adonis whose sordid life she'd been documenting. Fifteen years ago, Kay Farrow's father and a quartet of other cops put an end to the city's 'T case'—five young hustlers murdered and beheaded—by recusing the sixth victim before he could be killed too. But the victim ended up dying anyway; all the physical evidence mysteriously vanished from the scene; and four of the five cops ended up, like the unknown killer, getting eased into retirement. Now that Tim Lovsey, the beautiful prostitute Kay had been photographing for months, has been killed and dismembered, Kay can't help wondering what her father will have to say about the case, and how it's connected to his own well-publicized failure. Kay, whose photophobia (she sees only shades of gray, and is blinded by bright light) has made her a creature of the night as well, sets out to take another look at Tim's dark world through wraparound shades and a Contex viewfinder—at least until a bunch of tough guys beat her and steal the camera. She learns that although Tim was repeatedly sought out by opera stars and society types, his first loyalty was to his twin sister Ariane—a twin whose life was bound uncannily to his by David deGeoffroy, the 'uncle' who trained them both to his vocation in magic, worked with them for years, and then watched them vanish with half his savings. It's an extravagantly promising setup, but the unraveling is a letdown: Kay's three problems (connecting Tim's murder to the T case, fingering the killer, tracking down Ariane) turn out to have all too little to do with each other, and to hold all too fewsurprises in store. As an exercise in atmosphere, though, Hunt's first novel is as glamorously seedy as a pristine print of a vintage film noir.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780425164822
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 9/1/1998
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 1
  • Product dimensions: 4.14 (w) x 6.76 (h) x 1.12 (d)

Table of Contents

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Interviews & Essays

Before the live bn.com chat, David Hunt agreed to answer some of our questions.

Q:  Have you read any great books lately?

A:  I've just finished Thomas Perry's Shadow Woman. It was so good I went out and bought the two other books in his Jane Whitefield series. These are terrific crime novels. I love the protagonist. She's half Native American, calls herself "a guide," hides and gives new identities to people in trouble. I also like it that Perry, a male writer, has a female protagonist. He doesn't write first-person in her voice as I do with Kay Farrow in my book, but I think he makes her totally convincing.

Q:  How do you view the approaching millennium? Do you foresee a lot of bizarre crimes as we get closer to the end of the century?

A:  After the Hale-Bopp mass suicide, it's hard to imagine more bizarre events. But, yes, I think this millennium thing brings out a lot of madness in people. Including crime writers. Some of us seem to be striving to create ever-more-bizarre murder stories.

Q:  Who were your favorite authors while growing up?

A:  Hemingway was numero uno. Then I turned against him on account of his macho posing. A couple of years ago when I was visiting Cuba (for a conference of U.S., Mexican, and Cuban crime writers) I went to see his house, which is set up as a museum. When I got back home I started to reread him. I found the old magic was still there. I think he's the Great American Writer of this century. From the 19th century my all-time favorite is Edgar Allan Poe.

Q:  What historical figure do you find most interesting?

A:  T. E. Lawrence, a.k.a. Lawrence of Arabia. Because of what he did, his later renunciation of fame, and also for his stupendous ability as a writer.

Q:  How do you feel about the coloring of old black and white films?

A:  Kay Farrow, my protagonist in The Magician's Tale, is a total achromat and thus 100 percent color-blind. She sees the world the way we see black and white movies. I think coloring these old flicks is an abomination! I've yet to see one in which the color didn't detract.

Q:  What are a couple of your favorite movies?

A:  "The Third Man," "The Big Sleep," "Body Heat," "Citizen Kane," "Double Indemnity." And also, of course, "Lawrence of Arabia."

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2005

    Fantastic book

    I got the opportunity to read this book before it was even in bookstores. As a bookstore employee, I had access to uncorrected proof 'advance reader copies' that publishers sent out to promote new books. I was instantly intrigued and read the book from cover to cover in a short time. Today, almost eight years later, it's still one of my favorites. The plot takes some bizarre turns and the story is sort of out there, but it makes for an amazing story. Enjoy it!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2003

    For those who are hard to impress

    Awesome and mindblowing. I couldn't put it down. Very few book compare.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2002

    Couldn't put it down!

    I found this book in a coffee shop while being stood up by some friends. As I started reading I was glad they hadn't shown up! I finished it in 3 days. It was written deftly with clear pictures of all characters involved. It covers material off the beaten track and truly interesting to an innocent!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2000

    Enjoyable read, if not a bit anemic

    Loved the premise and location. Characters sounded very interesting. Could have gotten more gruesome and sordid. I was looking for something with more 'shock value' and didn't find it. It was a good read all in all though. Enjoyed the lead character.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2000

    Held my interest, but just barely

    I loved the tour through San Francisco and the characters were intriguing, but this book dragged in some places and I found myself struggling to finish it. Hunt has an interesting writing style that I don't dislike and I would recommend this book. Just don't expect to be knocked of your feet.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2000

    AMAZING USE OF COLOR

    THIS BOOK HAD EVERYTHING I EXPECT IN A READ BUT SELDOM FIND. THE AUTHOR CARRIED ME ALONG IN HIS 'CAMERA LENS' ALLOWING ME TO SEE WHAT KAY SAW, TO FEEL WHAT SHE FEELS AND ALLOWED ME TO LOVE WHAT SHE LOVED.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2000

    The Best Read I've Had in a Long Time

    I savored every minute of this book. Atmospheric with an intriguing and racy story, it was exceptionally well-written.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2000

    An interesting book to read.

    The thought of a color blind photographer trying to solve a murder case is intriguing enough but when adding all the twist along with it makes the book very exciting. I could hardly put the book down. A few times I thought I knew who the killer was going to be but you never know untill the end. David Hunt is an excellent writer an I am very excited to read more of his novels.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2000

    Dark, perverse, irresistible

    The main character, Kay Farrow, is unique and unforgetable -- a nicely complex combination of vulnerability and strength. The narrative is richly atmospheric and immediately lured me in. The tale stumbles badly at the end as the author attempts to be too neat with the final plot twist. Nevertheless, this is a worthwhile read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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