The Illusionist's Apprentice

The Illusionist's Apprentice

by Kristy Cambron


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Not all illusions happen on the stage.

Wren Lockhart, apprentice to master illusionist Harry Houdini, uses life on a vaudeville stage to

escape the pain of her past. She continues her career of illusion after her mentor’s death, intent on burying her true identity.

But when a rival performer’s act goes tragically wrong, the newly formed FBI calls on Wren to speak the truth—and reveal her real name to the world. She transfers her skills for misdirection from the stage to the back halls of vaudeville, as she finds herself the unlikely partner in the FBI’s investigation. All the while Houdini’s words echo in her mind: Whatever occurs, the crowd must believe it’s what you meant to happen. She knows that if anyone digs too deep, secrets long kept hidden may find their way to the surface—and shatter her carefully controlled world.

Set during one of the richest, most vibrant eras in American history, this Jazz Age novel of illusion, suspense, and forgotten pasts is perfect for fans of The Magician’s Lie, challenging all to find the underpinnings of faith on their own life’s stage.

“Prepare to be amazed by The Illusionist's Apprentice.” —Greer Macallister, bestselling author of The Magician's Lie and Girl in Disguise

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780718041502
Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date: 03/07/2017
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 556,925
Product dimensions: 8.30(w) x 5.40(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

KRISTY CAMBRON is an award-winning author of historical fiction, including her bestselling debut The Butterfly and the Violin, and an author of Bible studies, including the Verse Mapping series. She's a Women's Ministry Leader at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, KY, and a passionate storyteller who travels to speak at events across the country, encouraging women to experience a deeper life in the Word through verse mapping. Her work has been named to Publishers Weekly Religion & Spirituality TOP 10, Library Journal Reviews' Best Books, RT Reviewers' Choice Awards, and received 2015 & 2017 INSPY Award nominations. Kristy holds a degree in Art History/Research Writing, and has 15 years of experience in education and leadership development for a Fortune-100 Corporation, working with such companies as the Disney Institute, IBM/Kenexa, and Gallup. She lives in Indiana with her husband and three sons, and can probably be bribed with a coconut mocha latte and a good read.

Facebook: @KCambronAuthor

Twitter: @KCambronAuthor

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Read an Excerpt

The Illusionist's Apprentice

By Kristy Cambron

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2017 Kristy Cambron
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7180-4231-8


O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?

— 1 Corinthians 15:55

December 31, 1926

Mount Auburn Cemetery

Cambridge, MASS.

Agent Elliot Matthews stared down a firing squad.

The potential executioners held firm in their stance with camera lenses and pencils cocked, all ready to fire. And fire they would, splashing sensational bulletins across the next day's newspaper headlines.

A slew of brash young journalists assembled in the famed Mount Auburn Cemetery, focused on the job at hand. They stood in formation at the front of the crowd, photographers tinkering with cameras and reporters tapping pencils against notepads, all with the itchiness of glorious anticipation.

Elliot hated feeling hemmed in, with the press and scores of onlookers closing ranks. He wanted a full view in the event something erupted without warning, so he and his partner melted along the side of the gathering, opting for a perch along the old stone fence bordering Bigelow Chapel. They were still surrounded by the overhang of trees, but at least they would have a clear view of the front row.

The faces in the crowd weren't morose like one would expect to find in a cemetery on such a frigid day. They smiled and chatted, their curiosity piqued as they waited for the show to begin.

Police stood by, too, poised to arrest anyone who dared to cause a stir.

And that's all Elliot could think it was. A stir.

A media frenzy in what should have been a place for mourners and gravediggers. Instead, a crowd of onlookers — spiritualists and press — had shown up at the public invitation printed in the Boston Globe the previous Monday: Famed Medium Horace Stapleton to Defy Death in Public Ceremony on New Year's Eve.

What a terrible waste. Elliot had seen a crowd of mourners fill a cemetery before — one too many times — and didn't want to be haunted by the host of memories the current setting dared trigger. Not wishing to think back on things he couldn't change, Elliot turned away and settled his attention on the landscape. If his objective was to forget, staring down lifeless trees seemed safer than watching a bunch of nail-biters in trench coats and fedoras.

The canopy of trees formed a bower on all sides. Mist invaded, curling around the trunks of aged sycamores and maples. An icy drizzle coated the leafless limbs, making the scene look like a fragile glass world.

"See that?" Elliot elbowed his partner.

Agent Connor Finnegan responded with a full-body turn and a squint in Elliot's direction. "Noticing something, boss?"

He coughed into his palm, a puff of breath on air. "Besides the zoo in front of us?"

"The trees." Elliot motioned to the line of sycamores and the only spot broken in the row of trees shadowing the chapel's stone border. "Odd. In a well-known and meticulously manicured cemetery like this, the grounds keepers leave a spot untended in full view of the chapel. It's just there. Barren. Lifeless. Like a tree fell and they neglected to replace it."

"But it's all barren, isn't it?" Connor looked around. "Everything and everyone's dead here. Shame we have to spend our New Year's Eve in a cemetery. We've been summoned to the event of the year —"

"Says who?" Elliot shot back before he could help himself. It wasn't the time to get caught up in the happenings of the society column. Connor should know that.

"Says me. And anyone with a brain rattling in his head. At the event of the year — maybe the decade — with scores of reporters and all of Boston's high society present, we have to spend it looking at a couple of trees on a hill?" He clapped his hands together in front of him, his brow furrowed. "Sometimes I wish this job had a little more action to it."

Connor was a roughneck of an agent with a thick New Englander's accent and shades of pretension he shouldn't yet own for barely a year with the Bureau. But he wore it well. He could be laid back when it suited him, but obviously not when forced to brave the punishing midwinter temperatures for a mockery of a display.

"More action isn't always a good thing. But yeah, Ace. That's why we're here. To notice what other people don't, action or not."

"Trees ... Figures." Connor heaved a sigh. "Don't tell me we were sent all the way out here to look at landscaping. Notice something more interesting, why don't you? You tell me that missing tree is somehow connected to a dame and maybe then I'll listen. How 'bout you find a nice pair of gams for us to appreciate while we wait for the show to start."


"I submit that class wasn't a requirement when I applied for this job."

"And we never said you shouldn't look for it down the road either." Elliot tossed the thought away and turned his wrist to check his watch. "It's nearly noon."

"Good." Connor rubbed his hands together. "Because my face is starting to freeze. The sooner this clown starts and finishes his show, the better. My insides are screaming for a cup of joe. And I can't tell you how many party invites I had for tonight, and I'm poised to miss out on all of them if something doesn't happen soon."

Needing something mundane to occupy his mind, Elliot pulled the ivory-faced lighter from his pocket — the one his father used to own. It had been his favorite, one Elliot remembered now only in memories of days before the Great War. But even those had begun to fade as time passed. He flipped it back and forth between his fingers, waiting for the show to begin.

The crowd hushed then, drawing their attention.

"It appears he's not going to make you wait any longer."

Elliot tipped his chin forward. "Look."

On the hinges of his words, a figure broke through the mass of people, the center of the crowd parting around him.

Flashbulbs flickered, lighting up the man's purple velvet coat and top hat. He was rail thin but elegant, moving with haughty purpose as the sheen on his long coat reflected the light with each drawn-out stride.

"That's Stapleton."

"Doesn't look like much." Connor curled up the side of his lip. "But he makes up for what he lacks in stature with gumption, eh? Houdini's not even two months cold in his grave, and this guy's already organized a public parade to discount his memory."

"Entertainers thrive on their media attention. We knew it wouldn't be long before characters like Stapleton would step out in the public eye again. They'll try to discredit Houdini's memory or make a bigger name for themselves now that he's out of the picture."

"So you don't believe Stapleton is a real medium?"

"Doesn't matter what I think. In this line of work, it only matters what we can prove. Remember that. Stapleton's an illusionist. That's a fact. Beyond that, I wouldn't try to guess."

The showman climbed two steps onto a platform that had been erected — a clumsy but wide setup of wood and paper streamers that had been strewn about and were now frozen by the misty rain that still clung to the morning air. The paper became a skeletal backdrop that danced in its fight with the wind, lending a macabre feel to the makeshift stage.

In front of the setup, the chilling image of an open grave.

In clear view of the press, the excavated earth was piled into a mound behind the pit, its top darkened by the rain. Gravediggers stood off to the side, heads down against the wind, holding fast to shovels and picks.

The crowd rumbled with murmurings. Stapleton raised his arms, quieting them with confident control. "It has been said that no man holds the authority over death." His voice boomed, an Irish accent clinging to his words.

Connor rolled his eyes heavenward. "Five clams says the accent's a fake."

"Shh." Elliot frowned, though not from Connor's comic zeal. Somehow, he knew what was coming next.

Stapleton held the crowd's undivided attention. "Many have claimed to be great illusionists. And that is all they are. Trick-makers. They grasp your money in their pockets, tearing your eyes from the truth with evil deceit. But I ask you — who here has lost someone? Any sweethearts whose futures with their soldiers were cut short? Any mothers who've buried their husbands or sons? Would you not wish to hear from your beloved just once more? Could mere illusionists help you in this endeavor?

I think not."

Elliot had to swallow the distaste growing more bitter in his mouth.

Both he and Connor had been assigned to the case as silent observers — proof that the federal government would investigate claims of fraud into characters who would mislead the public.

But they were on strict orders not to get involved — unless, of course, they had to keep the peace.

If he had his way, Elliot would cuff Stapleton and haul him before a judge on principle alone. To manipulate the hearts of hurting people was beyond dastardly, but this man seemed to be almost enjoying it.

"So what is truth? I seek to enlighten you. With no trickery. No illusions ..." Stapleton punched a fist in the air, professing, "Just plain and simple power from the other side. Power to give you back what you've lost ... And I shall put this power on display today, right before you."

Elliot's brows tipped up. Well, Houdini may have dealt a blow to this man's career once, but Stapleton certainly has no confidence problem now.

"That's right. My dear members of the press," Stapleton shouted, looking down at the crowd with a thick layer of sympathy. "Many of you have stood watch all night, in the deteriorating weather, inspecting each shovelful of dirt and every swing of the pickax as it was brought down to cut the earth before me. We have representatives here and a medical doctor selected by our distinguished Mayor Nichols's office, as well as both state and federal law enforcement and a few choice guests to whom I have extended personal invitations — all to lend credence to what you are about to witness.

"You've been shown the authentication of the plot by which we now stand, for a Mr. Victor Peale, who has been confined to the grave these twenty years. And yes — you've doubted, even as you watched with your own eyes ..."

Stapleton pointed a bony finger at the crowd, singling out the presence of disbelievers like a plague among them. "But I submit before you, humble as I may, that death is not the final chapter."

Connor groaned, making Elliot crack an unwanted smile. He glanced away from Stapleton's onstage antics, opting to scan the faces of the people packed in before them. Watching. Willing them to see truth. To turn around and go back home. Didn't they realize it was an outlandish claim from a career illusionist? That it was not possible to bring a man back from the grave after that much time? Yet they stood on. Transfixed. Their mouths gaping and confidence clinging to his words.

A shame. The man is just beating his gums, but they're still eating it up.

Stapleton's spell fell to blanket the gathering like snow. Who would be bought in after the show? Who would eventually fork out money — and worse, their hope — to this character in the days and weeks to follow?

Elliot shook his head for the poor souls. The man's claims were clearly too sensational to be true. He couldn't help but pity the lot of them. Then something odd caught his eye, drawing his attention away: a flash of fiery crimson buried behind a sea of black woolen coats and hats.

A figure stood off to the side of the crowd, alone.

Sheltered by the haven of a great oak, she was hidden beneath a crimson hood and cape that spilled down to dust the frozen ground at her feet. The garment hid fragments of dress quite eccentric for a woman: a high-collared man's shirt peeking out at the neck, a gold bow tie, black trousers, and matching over-the-knee riding boots. And while the dress piqued Elliot's notice, it was the woman's reaction to Stapleton's words that would not allow him to look away.

Hers was an aura of contradiction.

She owned flaming-red hair with blunt-cut bangs and waves that just peeked out from the hood. And though she projected the illusion of poise, the tips of her hair had caught on the wind and brushed the side of her face, seemingly without her care. Her lips were pursed and her glare pierced the stage, as if she possessed emotion barely held at bay. She clutched at the front of her cape with one gloved hand and held a gleaming black walking stick in the other. She leaned on it, like a stake she was attempting to drive into the ground.

Elliot tipped his head to one side. It's a disguise.

A good one, no doubt.

Anyone looking at her would notice the peculiar clothing first. But the woman's mannerisms were decidedly forced. Something had infuriated her, and Elliot wanted to know what it was.

"Connor," he asked, dropping his voice low. Elliot tipped his chin toward the cloaked figure. "Have you ever seen her before?" Connor tossed a glance in the woman's direction, then turned back to Stapleton's onstage flailings. "She's one of that lot."

"What lot?"

"You know. The vaude performers. Like Stapleton. Though she's one of the more infamous ones on the circuit."

Elliot watched her, the curiosity of her presence holding his attention fast. "A vaude performer, hmm?"

"Don't tell me you've never been to one of those seedy song-and-dance halls before. Or with your father's money, at least one of the more well-to-do theaters?" Connor failed to veil the mocking in his tone. "If I didn't know of your years at the Bureau, I'd have guessed you were the rookie instead of me. It's vaudeville, Elliot. And Wren Lockhart is her name."

Elliot gritted his teeth each time his family's money was brought into a similar conversation, as if that assured his position in society without any merit to his own choices. But Connor was young and just shy of tactless, so Elliot let it slide. "That's her real name?" Elliot paused. "Or stage name?"

"What does it matter, really? She's one of them. But if it's stems you're looking to gaze at, please don't let it be the type in trousers. I'd think you'd have a swankier view with the dancers. I know I'd much prefer it."

"I'm not gazing at anything," Elliot snapped, keenly feeling the dig at his clumsy understanding of entertainment trends.

"It's just ..."


Elliot shook his head, still watching the woman. "Something.

I'm not quite sure yet."

"Well, you'd better get sure." Connor took a cigarette out of his inside pocket. He struck a match against his thumb and cupped his hand to tender the end with a deep inhale. "Because here we go."

Stapleton had moved on from the theatrics of his grand entrance to the marvel of the main act. He stood with his shoulders back and chin notched high. A rich, almost grandfatherly warmth spread over his face as he smiled. "And now? It begins."

The sudden roar of an engine ripped through the air.

An auto chugged forward, taking the slack out of a length of chain against a pulley hoisted to the side of the stage. Metal popped and tightened and the crowd jumped.

"He's not ... ," Connor whispered, the cigarette dangling off his bottom lip, threatening to flutter to the ground.

"Oh, but I believe he is," Elliot said, just as the corner of a coffin appeared at the inside edge of the grave, rising up, up, up. The chains creaked with the tension of metal-to-metal friction.

Connor swore under his breath and spat the cigarette from his lips to grind it out beneath the sole of his shoe. He grumbled about not getting paid enough for something or another.

"And now, ladies and gentlemen" — Stapleton's voice slithered through the trees — "the moment you have all been waiting for. The power no one before has harnessed! I shall defy the laws of nature ..."

The auto slowed, then kicked into reverse, lowering the coffin into the gravediggers' waiting arms. They steered it to the platform with a soft thud, then backed away from it.

The crowd let out a collective gasp.

"It is quite alright, I assure you. But who among you can claim the fortitude to stare death in the face?" Stapleton scanned the mass of onlookers with a raised eyebrow. "Who dares to open this crypt and give a man back his life? Who will aid me in summoning his soul from the depths of the hereafter to life among us once again?"

The crowd pulsed with energy. Women edged back, abhorred by the thought of being chosen to resurrect a decayed corpse. Members of the press leaned in, craning their necks to see, though none proved bold enough to volunteer. So all waited. Looking left to right. Watching. Expecting something — they just didn't know what.

Elliot kept his feet firm, only migrating his glance from Stapleton, to the crowd, and back to the cloaked woman perched at the fringe of the action. She hadn't moved a muscle, just stood there, haunting the shadowed outline of the oak


Excerpted from The Illusionist's Apprentice by Kristy Cambron. Copyright © 2017 Kristy Cambron. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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The Illusionist's Apprentice 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 50 reviews.
mackenzie_carol More than 1 year ago
I really, really enjoyed The Ringmaster’s Wife, so I have been looking forward to reading this sequel for quite some time, though you wouldn’t know it considering how long it sat on my shelf before I finally got around to reading it. I’ve been behind on my reading for quite some time now, and on my reviewing as well considering the fact that I read this book almost 2 months ago. And honestly, I would’ve thought I would’ve been raving about this story much, much earlier, because I cannot BEGIN to tell you how much I loved it. This book blew me away. It really did. Kristy is a master of weaving together captivating stories with a perfect combination of mystery and heart-wrenching emotion, and she will forever be one of my all-time favorite authors. Wren Lockhart is such a perfectly developed character. From the beginning, she is a mystery, hiding her true self and her life—and her secrets—behind the vaudeville persona she has created. But as that life—and those secrets—begin to crash down around her, there are so many choices she must make about who she is and who she wants to be. Her newfound partnership with the FBI challenges her privacy, and her heart, as they race against time to solve a mystery far more complicated and far reaching than they ever imagined, a mystery that will only serve to further tear Wren’s life apart. Let me begin by telling you that Kristy did a perfect job with this mystery. I had no idea who was behind it all. Until the very last second, I was just as confused as the rest of them, but as the threads started to come undone, I was completely blown away by what I found. I don’t think I’ve read a better written deception, with a more believable motive or a more perfectly hidden culprit. I don’t want to give away anything, because I want you to be able to experience the same surprise that I did, but I just want to praise Kristy’s skills for a minute. If you like any type of mystery or suspense, read this book. Seriously. It’ll knock your socks off. And coming from someone who also LOVES to find raw emotion and heartbreak and REAL characters in the books she reads, this book is also perfect for lovers of touching stories of pain and redemption featuring things like those. All in all, I don’t feel as if I’ve even come halfway close to adequately describing to you all of the reasons to read this novel, or all of the praise Kristy deserves for the masterpiece she has written. There was never a moment when I wasn’t completely captivated by the story, pulled in by the mystery and the characters and the glamour of it all, never a moment when I felt that a scene or dialogue was lacking. There is absolutely nothing negative I could say about this story, not that I was trying. I don’t make it a habit to say negative things about writers and the books they’ve worked so hard on, so I really love it when there isn’t anything to be said. Because as a reviewer I have to be honest, but as a writer I hate to criticize, because I know how hard it is to create a book out of something like another world that only exists in your head. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is, The Illusionist’s Apprentice easily earns all five bookshelves, and a place on my all-time favorites list. I highly recommend this novel, and the rest of the series and any other book Kristy has written or will ever write, because she is phenomenal. Read it. Read it again. I promise you won’t be disappointed. (This review is from my blog,
Christianfictionandmore More than 1 year ago
Kristy Cambron excels as a writer of historical fiction. In The Illusionist’s Apprentice, she shows that she is equally adept at writing suspense. Having combined these two genre, Cambron takes us into the mysterious world of Wren Lockhart, a fictional vaudevillian illusionist who once assisted the great Harry Houdini, and FBI agent, Elliot Matthews. The story is set in the mid-1920s while the reader is also given peeks into Lockhart’s childhood of the early 1900s. While Wren created illusions on stage, the illusions that were created in her childhood had the greatest impact on her life. Cambron shows us how faith in the work of Christ over the grave and the power of forgiveness defeated those childhood illusions, allowing Wren to walk, or fly, in freedom. Fictional Wren, like her true-life mentor, Harry Houdini, did not fall prey to the resurgence in spiritualism of the post-war 1920s. Rather they made it their mission to debunk spiritualists who set about taking advantage of the grief imposed on so many by The Great War. Wren stressed that she performed illusions, not magic, and expected that same honesty in her fellow showmen and women. While she demanded that transparency, Wren kept her personal life and struggles hidden from view. Elliot Matthews came to Wren for assistance with a murder case involving a suspect from the world of the vaudeville illusionists. His original intent was not to uncover her personal secrets, but being drawn to her fed his desire to know the person behind the stage persona, a desire to gain her trust, to be allowed in the back stage of her life; desires that would eventually save her life and life of someone very dear to her. The hardest part of reading Cambron’s novels is extricating oneself from them afterward. One doesn’t simply visit her characters and settings, one lives with and in them. Come, be transported.
BBulow More than 1 year ago
I've enjoyed every book I've read by Kristy Cambron so far. The Illusionist's Apprentice takes on an intriguing time in history, as well as fascinating subject matter - vaudeville illusionists, both those that admitted their trick were illusion and those that attempted to fool the public into thinking that it was real. Wren Lockhart, despite her career as an illusionist, doesn't want to fool anyone. She is however, very protective secrets, including those of her time with the famous Houdini. FBI Agent Elliot Matthews is after the truth, no matter what secrets may be uncovered. When they are brought together in an investigation, the cost of uncovering Wren's secrets is higher than either of them realize. Wren is a mysterious character, and to be honest, I felt held at arm's length of her for much of the story. I know she is supposed to be very private, etc. but sometimes I wished that that wasn't the case for the reader as well as Elliot. Speaking of Elliot, I actually warmed up to his character more, and it was only in the last quarter of the story, when some of Wren's past is revealed, that I felt like I knew her more. I can say that this added to the mysterious tone of the story. The pacing is a good combination of suspenseful moments, interspersed with moments from Wren's past that help the reader understand her motivations in the current time. Though I did wish for a bit better connection with the characters, the plot is engaging and the story line is evocative, immersing me into the secrecy, glamour, and danger of the vaudeville world. Kristy Cambron is a writer that I will continue to follow, and I'm looking forward to reading more of her books! Thank you to the publisher for a copy of this novel. This review is my honest opinion.
Freddikb More than 1 year ago
Not all illusions happen on stage. Wren Lockhart was apprentice to the famous illusionist Harry Houdini. After his death, Wren is determined to continue her career, as well as keep her true identity hidden. But when a rival performer’s act goes tragically wrong Wren is called on to speak the truth, including revealing who she really is. Wren knows if anyone digs too deep, the past she has been so careful to hide could resurface and shatter her world. I loved the setting of this story. The Jazz Age. Where do I begin? The music, the fashion, Kristy Cambron described the details so vividly and I felt as if I was there beside Wren. I enjoyed how carefully Ms. Cambron weaved the past and present together, giving just enough of each story to keep me up at night needing to read more. She really brought it all to life for me. All the while through the story I kept asking “How do you kill a man who is already dead??” My mom can verify that I was asking that, lol. We were on vacation when I was reading this book and she heard me voice that question a few times. How do you kill a man who is already dead? I will let you figure that one out! *I received this book free from Thomas Nelson and Fiction Guild in exchange for my review. What I have expressed are entirely my own thoughts*
KrittersRamblings More than 1 year ago
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings In this fictional tale, Harry Houdini took on a young girl as an apprentice after seeing her talent on the street. He taught her all the things he knew and many in the illusionist circle coveted her close relationship to him. She has also has secrets from her past that she is trying to keep out of the spotlight and all of these things are going to come to a head in this book.
4840318 More than 1 year ago
3.5 Stars At first, I had a very hard time getting into this book. I must have picked it up 2 or 3 times before it actually “stuck”, but I am glad it did because it turned out to be a really good historical fiction read. I think it took me some time to get used to authors style of writing, but eventually it all started to flow and I couldn’t stop reading it. The story is really intriguing and not like anything I have read before. I liked the idea of Harry Houdini having an apprentice to carry on his debunking of magicians. I really liked the way the story unfolded, the pacing was excellent and the twists and turns were surprising. This was the first book I have read by this author, but it certainly won’t be the last.
EmilyAnneK17 More than 1 year ago
Horace Stapleton claims he can raise people from the dead. In an astonishing turn of events, he appears to succeed, only for the man to fall dead again moments later. Reading someone from the dead is impossible, so says Wren Lockhart, Houdini's one-time apprentice and attendee to the "resurrection." Another attendee, FBI Agent Elliot Matthews agrees. But if the man wasn't dead already ... he must have died onstage. Who is the murderer, how how was it done, and why? Wren and Elliot team up to solve the mystery. The Illusionist's Apprentice was great. Just having the word "illusionist" in the title increased my expectations, not to mention making the main character a prodigy of the world's most famous magician. Epic mysteries in movie form come to mind also, including The Illusionist, The Prestige, and Now You See Me. This book didn't quite measure up to the epicness of those movies, but it was only by a fraction. I was caught up in the mystery and romance from the every beginning. Wren and Elliot uncovered the pieces one by one with one awesome reveal at the end. Family history, old friendships, and sordid pasts added complexity to the ongoing mystery. There were frequent flashbacks to Wren's past, adding clues to the present myserty. And I really liked the romance. The author captured what it means to have many secrets and difficulty trusting while growing into a romantic relationship. The individuals would often rather run than trust, but once they trust it is forever. It is beautiful and human. I really enjoyed The Illusionist's Apprentice. One of the best mysteries I have ever read. I received a complementary copy of this book from NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
EA_Hendryx More than 1 year ago
Mysterious and filled with the rich history of the 1920s, The Illusionist's Apprentice will romance you with leave you longing for an era passed. I thoroughly enjoyed this latest book by Kristy Cambron. She's such a master at painting a vibrant picture with words, drawing you into the story and pulling on your heart strings at the same time. I loved Wren Lockhart's character and her affiliation to Harry Houdini as well as her own eccentricity's. She's a strong character who will stand up for what she believes, but there's a softness to her as well. Something that, eventually, comes out and makes her feel whole in the reader's eyes. The true fruition of her character is a wondrous thing to behold through the story. Slipping into the time-frame of this novel was a lot of fun for me. I enjoy the luxury and vibrancy of the 20's - a great decade to set this mystery in - and found myself thoroughly enjoying the delicate touches of information, description, and history. Kristy really has a beautiful way of drawing out emotion in her characters while painting a dynamic picture of what life could have been like during this time. As for the mystery, I feel like it was well formed. There were a few elements that I felt were made to be a big deal (I won't reveal them here so as not to spoil) but ended up seeming to not matter as much in the end. That confused me a little, but it didn't distract from the overall idea of the story. Also, as a larger focus of this book, Kristy deals with the ideas of illusion versus magic. I loved that she did this and had her characters learning as they went. It brings to mind another current book I'll be reading soon...but that's another review ;-) I would definitely recommend this to those who like historical fiction, mystery, and anything to do with the 1920s and the idea of illusion versus magic. Kristy is a beautiful, lyrical writer who will stun you with her artfully painted words! _______________ I received this book for free but was under no obligation to post a review. I do so under my own motivation and the opinions I have expressed in this review are honest and entirely my own.
EpicFehlReader More than 1 year ago
4.5 Stars Wren Lockhart rises from street swindler to apprentice to famed escape artist Harry Houdini. This novel opens in the months following Houdini's death in the 1920s. While focusing on the 20s, there are also chapters that periodically flash back to either Wren's childhood or her time working with Houdini (one such chapter involving their attending a seance performed by Margery Crandon, the Witch of Lime Street). Wren attends a demonstration being performed by a fellow illusionist. It is at this performance that a man dies. The death is investigated and once it's suspected that the deceased might have been murdered, the FBI gets involved. In walks in Agent Elliot Matthews, who approaches Wren in hopes that she might be able to provide valuable information, given her close proximity to the deceased at the time of their death. But Wren fears that the FBI's involvement, Matthews' questioning and prying specifically, could possibly uncover secrets within her own family she very much needs kept buried. Lives of family members are at stake. After crafting quite the historical love story within The Ringmaster's Wife, author Kristy Cambron returns to the performance tent with The Illusionist's Apprentice, a tale inspired by the true-life story of Dorothy Young, who was, in fact, brought on as an apprentice to Houdini in her teens! Wren's impressive crowdwork in this story is a delight to read, particularly during one scene when she and Agent Matthews team up on stage. Their banter is adorable and slyly cheeky! For those picking this up not realizing it falls under Christian fiction, have no fears of uncomfortable reading. The religious elements are actually quite light, not going much beyond light, passing mentions of "God's Light" or "King of Kings", that kind of thing. That and possibly Wren's repeated distinction between magic and illusion. She does not like being labeled a magician because she feels magic touches upon darkness. Illusion meanwhile (she reasons) is merely slight-of-hand work. I came to find that I had guessed one of Wren's major secrets in the early chapters of the story, as well as pinning who the main "bad guy" would be at around the halfway point, though it is not actually revealed until pretty close to the end of the novel. So, somewhat of a predictability factor there for me but still quite a fun read! I got a chuckle near the end, as characters are escaping a major fire, because the way Cambron describes the moment reminded me of the close of the first Die Hard film! *Bonus: If you're a fan of the Gwen Marcey series by Carrie Stuart Parks, Cambron gives a shout-out to her in the acknowledgements in this book, giving thanks for helping out with the toxicology elements of the plot here. FTC Disclaimer: Thomas Nelson Publishers,via both and TNZ Fiction Guild, kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book & requested that I check it out and share my thoughts. The opinions above are entirely my own.
Darcy714 More than 1 year ago
The year is 1926 and Agent Elliot Matthews is overseeing a famous medium’s latest publicity stunt claiming he can bring a dead man back to life when something goes wrong and the “resurrected” man, dies in front of the gathered crowd. How to categorize this? Did the man die twice? Or was the stunt well executed, and the man was murdered? Just before the trick went badly, Matthews’ eye was drawn to a young woman with flaming red hair along the periphery of the crowd who remained aloof and angry. Following up on this leads him to a collaboration in the case with vaudeville illusionist, Wren Lockhart, who trained under Harry Houdini himself. As Wren helps Matthews to discover the truth behind the stunt gone wrong, the two find themselves the new target of an increasingly desperate villain and are drawn deeper into the plot and closer to each other than either is comfortable with. First off, I have never read a book by Kristy Cambron, though I have attempted to get a hold of other ARCs of hers in the past as I have heard great things about her. That being said, as I understand it, this is her first mystery, which is impressive as she seems adept at handling suspense scenes. I was a bit worried that certain things would be tied up with answers that would not make sense, but she did an admirable job of explaining the various mysteries throughout in a credible way. I also enjoyed the fact that she has clearly done her research as I am familiar with the time period and the various operating mediums as well as Houdini’s work in debunking them and she did a great job of following the history. There were also no obvious anachronisms I could see which was refreshing, and the whispers of Conan Doyle’s presence throughout are a nice touch considering his own connections to Houdini. Overall, I thought this was not just a great work of Christian fiction, but also a good work of fiction period, which is saying something. All too often when reading Christian fiction, I find the piece so sanitized (admittedly this is often due to publisher’s restrictions), that there is no real issue going on, or not one that leads the reader to care. Francine Rivers is an exception to this rule, and now I would say Kristy Cambron is as well. The characters were well drawn and the issues presented in the work were believable and taken from the real world and led the reader to care about what happened. My only issue with the work was the romance itself as it often felt like the scenes between Wren and Elliot were a little forced and felt a bit stilted rather than true to life. A well written work of historical fiction that is well-researched and defined. I would be interested to pick up more of Cambron’s works in future. Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was my first book by Kristy Cambron. I really enjoyed the book. It was a little slow at the beginning mainly because it explains some history, but the story was a good one and had several twists and turns. I didn't figure out who was trying to hurt Wren until the end. There were several "secrets" that are uncovered as you go along. A good read! Wren Lockhart is an illusionist and is pulled into some intrigue when a rival performer's act goes tragically wrong. Read this book to see what happens and hang on to your seat!
RobbyeReviewer More than 1 year ago
Wren Lockhart becomes embroiled in a mystery of epic proportions when, not long after Houdini’s death, she is at the scene of a possible murder. Elliot Matthews is an agent in the recently formed FBI. He notices Wren, an eccentric woman dressed in men’s clothing, while attending the same event that culminates with a man’s death. Kristy Cambron has written a lengthy story about the life of an illusionist in the 1920s. Her attention to detail during that era is noteworthy. However, the story is slow-paced with a lot of flashbacks, tending to cause the reader to lose interest. Wren is a very closed up character whom you never really get to know until near the end of the book. Because of this, it is hard to be invested her life, and she is one of the main characters! Miss Cambron shows, through dialogue and some illustrations, the differences between illusion and magic. I feel she wants readers to be sure they know magic isn’t healthy, and illusion is just sleight of hand-a tenuous difference at best. I tried to read the book with an open mind, but it was too dark and mystical, not to mention, just too ponderous for me. I received a copy of The Illusionist's Apprentice from The Fiction Guild. However, I was under no obligation to provide a review.
AngelaBycroftNZ More than 1 year ago
It’s an old secret of the trade - secrets are best hidden in plain sight. Every illusionist worth their salt knows that” From one of the most gorgeous covers of any book I have seen in quite sometime, Kirsty Cambron’s Illusionist’s Apprentice glitters like a jewel from its rich setting of the 1920s. Wren Lockhart as she is know from the stage, trained and apprenticed for the legendary Harry Houdini and now after his death she carries on the tradition of magic and slight of hand. When a rival illusionists illusion goes horribly and criminally wrong - Wren must join forces with FBI agent Elliot Matthews to bring those responsible to justice. They both soon discover that there are many layers of illusion, mystery and suspense - with Wrens past playing more than a passing detail to the outcome. “A hero doesn’t always have to save the day. Sometimes he just walks alongside you through the fire and that’s enough” The Illusionist’s Apprentice is a story that lives large and bright - long after the last page is read. Dripping in rich detail and clever plot slight of hand. Definitely a keeper.
Bloomingwithbooks More than 1 year ago
A delight to read.... The Illusionist's Apprentice By Kristy Cambron Wren Lockhart is hiding a secret, and not just the secrets as to her illusions and how she performs them. Rather her secret is one that goes back to the moment her childhood ended 20 years prior and she'll do anything to protect what is hers... But when a publicly touted illusion goes very wrong Wren becomes a person of interest to the FBI just because she witnessed the illusion from the outer fringes. But working with the FBI could hurt her reputation as an illusionist and bring the scorn of those within the profession upon her. But lives and reputations are at stake including Wren's and the FBI agents who are seeking the truth. The Illusionist's Apprentice takes the reader back in time. The main focus of the book is set in 1927 with backstory reveals throughout that that take the reader to 1907, 1910 and 1916 as key moments from Wren's past are revealed. This is an intricate and complex illusion that will take all of Wren's efforts to discover who is behind this illusion. But she can't do it alone and must rely on the unwanted and, yet, appreciated help of the FBI - specifically Agent Elliot Matthews and his partner Agent Connor Finegan. Take a step back in time to the 1920's when life was not so technically tethered and enjoy a mystery that is wrapped in the deceptive and alluring power of illusion. The book is as entertaining as the cover hints at it being. Historical fiction, romance, and mystery this book will captivate you from the opening page. I was provided a review copy of this book by the Fiction Guild with no expectations of a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own.
Jennybug52 More than 1 year ago
4 ½ stars- I really enjoyed this book. I have read all of Kristy Cambron’s novels and this is my new favorite. The roaring 20’s are such a fascinating period in time that I loved learning about in this book. I don’t know much about Houdini but I learned quite a bit about him in this story. He sounds like he was a very intriguing person. Because of the book I found myself googling his name and enjoyed reading even more about him. I love books that tie in real people with a fictional story. Wren was a very interesting character, although she seemed much older than her years. She had so much baggage and was such a complex character, it was fascinating to get inside her head and learn more about her. Elliot was also a very likable character and I enjoyed the back and forth between him and his FBI partner and also between him and Wren. There was plenty of action and intrigue throughout the story and I enjoyed it very much. I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
slm76 More than 1 year ago
The Illusionist’s Apprentice starts with a bizarre scene at a cemetery outside Boston. What happens there sets in motion an FBI investigation in which Wren Lockhart becomes a person of interest. Further mysteries develop when the reader is introduced to Wren’s family through flashback chapters. While the murder investigation is what brings Wren into the life of Agent Elliot Matthews, he is equally determined to break down her walls and discover the truth of her past. This is a romance novel as well as one of tragedy and suspense. I adored this book. I had trouble putting it down and probably wouldn’t have done so if not for life getting in the way! I became involved with even the characters and my heart sunk when an unexpected twist involved one of them. I thought it was interesting that Wren made a distinction between illusion and magic, and there’s a strong theme of light overcoming darkness. Everything in the narrative built to a breathtaking climax followed by a beautiful denouement. Although Wren and Elliot are fictional characters, I love how Cambron wove in the real and the imagined. Harry Houdini would often debunk spiritualism and attempts to contact the dead, and that part of his career is the focus of this novel. The Illusionist’s Apprentice was published in March but, if you’re looking for a good summer read I heartily recommend picking it up. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did. Thank you to Thomas Nelson, BookLook Bloggers, and Fiction Guild for my complimentary copy of The Illusionist’s Apprentice, which I received in exchange for my honest review.
ShareeS More than 1 year ago
The Illusionists’s Apprentice was a well written story that transported me back into time by including important but not dull, historical facts. And the best part? The story included Harry Houdini. Wren Lockhart has guts to live outside the box. Wearing men’s clothes, she’s the ultimate illusionist, not to be confused with anything involving magic. I thought this angle was intriguing. She’s loyal to her family to a fault and keeps herself closed off from the world. Thrown into solving a mystery, she finds herself falling for the investigator, Elliot Matthews. I loved the backstory, which is super strange to say but it was intricately told without being overwhelming. The whole book had me hanging on for more. This is my first of Kristy Cambron’s books and I’ve added two more to my must read pile. I will admit, her cover designs are a huge draw (even when I shouldn’t be judging a book by its cover). The Illusionist’s Apprentice is a great story and totally worth the read. A five out of five stars. I received this book from NetGalley, Thomas Nelson Publishers and the Fiction Guild without requirement of a review. All opinions expressed are my own.
Cynthia181 More than 1 year ago
I received a copy of this book from The Fiction Guild. I was not required to give a favorable review. All thoughts are my own. This was an interesting story about the side of a time when vaudville was still the place people went to for entertainment. Wren came from England after the loss of her mother and having to take care of her little sister. Her uncle left her a theatre in Boston and she learned how to hone her skills under Houdini. She has been seen by two FBI agents who saw her at a graveside trick that went bad by another person. She is asked to show how it all went wrong, but in the process she was finally going to have to let someone get close to her. She hadn't done that since her uncle passed. Does finding the bad guys, getting things better with an old enemy and finding love.
SemmieWise More than 1 year ago
** “There cannot be dark without the light that will overcome it. Whatever darkness there is, God’s light shines brighter. It has to. He’s the Hero in every story — especially this one.” ** It’s Dec. 31, 1926, and Harry Houdini has been dead for two months. Horace Stapleton is looking to step into the role of master illusionist by bringing back to life a man who has supposedly been dead for 20 years. But after the man who seems to come back to life drops dead on stage, FBI Agent Elliot Matthews is determined to solve the case. Elliot quickly brings in the mysterious and eccentric — and very private — Wren Lockhart, Houdini’s former assistant who is plucky and full of moxie, to help figure out what truly happened with Stapleton’s botched illusion. As they grow closer and closer during their investigation, Elliot and Wren must learn to tear down their walls, trusting and opening up to each other, revealing their secrets and baggage. “The Illusionist’s Apprentice” by Kristy Cambron is a fantastic historical fiction novel taking place in the 1920s Jazz Age and Prohibition era. Filled with suspense and action, “The Illusionist’s Apprentice” features both actual, historical characters — like Houdini and references to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle — and fictional characters that could be based on real people — like Wren and Elliot. Traveling through three different eras in Wren’s life — childhood, her teen years and present day — Cambron’s novel is a tale of intrigue, secrets, guilt, redemption, and overcoming and moving on from the past. It emphasizes the importance of faith (as Wren tells Houdini, “My faith must always be stronger than what my eyes can see”) and reminds us that there has only ever been one man who could claim power over the grave. A major theme repeatedly delves into the idea that there is always the hope of light, even in the darkest moments. The author’s storyline reminds us again and again that light will always overcome the dark. It also touches on the theme of being a hero, and what it takes to be a hero. As Wren comments, “Our mother used to say that a hero doesn’t always have to slay a dragon to save the day. … Sometimes he just walks through the fire alongside you, and that’s enough.” Cambron does a fantastic job of keeping the plot fresh and exciting, moving along quickly. She writes in a very descriptive manner, that often paints a lovely picture of the story’s surroundings. An example: “Drizzle cried down the outside of the glass, the ink-black night serving as the backdrop beyond the windows.” If you love historical fiction, Prohibition and Jazz Age era stories, and all things illusionists, you will love this book. Five stars out of five. Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, provided this complimentary copy for my honest, unbiased review.
Mirella More than 1 year ago
From it's stunning cover to the spellbinding storytelling, this is one book that had me hooked. It's about the beginnings of the FBI and the shady business of Vaudeville. The main characters, Wren and Elliot, bring a realm of emotion into the story. Poignant backstories, heart-wrenching scenes, and plot twists held my interest to the very satisfying ending. The two lovers slowly come together, each slowly revealing more and more about themselves. Romance, danger, and secrets make this a worthwhile read! I also enjoyed the author's other book, The Ringmaster's Wife! I recommend them both.
MelissaF More than 1 year ago
I have read all of Kristy's books. She is so talented. Her style is unique. She writes books that I believe only she could give life to. She's take history and breathes life into it. Parts of our history that I never thought I would find interesting and I become enthralled. The Illusionist's Apprentice takes you backstage in the world of magic or illusion. What is real and what isn't? Who is telling the truth and who is hiding something? From the beginning we learn that Wren Lockhart is hiding and hiding something. Her story is slowly revealed and you can't help but love her. Elliot is easy to like, he is a strong protector and has an instinct to protect, but not really trust, Wren. If you are looking for a book that is a bit different but very well written I would say look for further. This book is highly engaging. A copy of this book was given to me through All opinions are my own.
jacksonmomLV More than 1 year ago
I found this book hard to get into at first, perhaps because vaudeville and the Houdini-type of illusion shows are not my cup of tea (they make me nervous, actually). BUT Kristy Cambron's style of historical fiction IS, so I read on, and became enamored with her bruised characters and plot twists. The emotional wounds which shaped Wren and Elliot are heart-breaking, and fueled the careers they each threw themselves into. They seem so opposite and at odds with each other in the first part of the story, so I loved how their parallel search for truth about a deadly stunt eventually led them to trust each other. Slowly and cautiously, these very private Bostonians begin to open their pasts and their hearts. Though it was their strengths - theatre experience and logical deduction - that helped them in trying to solve this case, it was what they considered their weaknesses - family and commitment - that really brought them together. As Wren (or is it really Jenny now?) says, "It was like the tales in The Welsh Fairy Book: there was the promise of a hero one day. Someone...who'd take my trembling hand in his." What a satisfying tale indeed! I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Thomas Nelson, via the Fiction Guild in exchange for my honest review.
RachsRamblings More than 1 year ago
I have enjoyed every read by this author. This book was no exception. I love a mystery, and this book has several mystery lines. I wasn't sure I would enjoy it as this isn't an era I find enjoyable in reading, but how the illusionists presented themselves and entertained was fascinating. The plot and story were well done. The one thing that kept it from five was that I didn't really connect with the characters. In truth, tho, I don't think that's the purpose though I love that about books. The mystery of who the main character really is in her heart is a large part of the plot of the story. So even if you don't think you will enjoy a read like this one, with time, subject matter, or plot...give it a try. I did just because of the author, and I wasn't disappointed. I received this book from the fiction Guild. I wasn't required to write a review. All opinions are my own.
BookReviewerTG More than 1 year ago
The first book that I read by Kristy Cambron was The Butterfly and the Violin (A Hidden Masterpiece Novel). I enjoyed it so much and was delighted when I received this book, The Illusionist's Apprentice. There is so much in this read! The connection between Jenny aka. Wren and the FBI agent, Eliot, was well written. The history in this book was intriguing, I'm not a history buff but I had heard some things about Houdini and found that Ms. Cambron brought out some interesting knowledge about is illusions. I wasn't quite sure why Wren chose to dress in a man's suit, that just wasn't clear to me in the story. But because of her life and because she is quite eccentric, I thought that maybe she didn't want to be noticed as a beautiful female. {Just a thought} Being a woman in the early 1900's, especially in this profession wasn't well thought of, so I give Wren the benefit of the doubt. The beauty of this story isn't just about illusionists but it's about the public illusion that goes terribly wrong and Wren must decide whether to stand up for right and help a hated man. An interesting and quite elaborate story. I loved it! *This book was provided for review by The Fiction Guild/Thomas Nelson*
LucyMR1 More than 1 year ago
Amazingly beautiful.....this book is rich in history and has you spellbound throughout. I did not want to put it down, as the secrets kept, keep you intrigued and delving deeper to find out exactly what makes each character tick. Like a well oiled machine this book keeps moving and drawing you deeper into the story. It deals with deep emotional issues and the scars they leave behind, family dynamics, opening your heart to new beginnings, mystery, and more. It touches you on multiple levels. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, as Kristy Cambron is a gifted author. I'm a new fan. I received a complimentary copy from Thomas Nelson & Zondervan Fiction Guild. The honest review and opinions are my own and were not required.