This is the story of Ada Bates and her rise to fame as “The Amazing Arden”, master illusionist. As a young teen, she is thrown into contact with her cousin Ray, a very disturbed young man. He threatens her with bodily harm. Ray believes he has special healing powers; he believes he can hurt her and heal her. When she receives no help from her mother, after begin injured, she runs away from home with another young man, Clyde, who works on the same farm where she is living. Thus begins her eventual life and future career under the tutelage of Adelaide Herrmann, who actually did exist and was a rare female illusionist. Ultimately, Ada/Arden is accused of murder. The reader will decide if she is guilty or innocent, telling lies or telling the truth.
The story is presented as Ada’s confession to Virgil Holt, the local sheriff who has arrested her for the murder of her husband. She begins in 1892, the year she leaves home and continues to their present time, 1905. Ada tells her story slowly, reeling in the reader completely, even when the story taxes credibility. Like Ada, the reader will be a captive until the final page as the many character’s lives converge.
The sheriff, Virgil, believes that “Arden” has magical powers that can heal his injuries if he can convince her to do it. He wants to trade her freedom for his cure. Some of the will scenes seem contrived and require the suspension of disbelief. In the end, the reader will be left wondering about many elements of the story. Could Ada help Virgil? Is her story believable? What is the magician’s real lie? After you read it, you may continue to wonder about many elements of the story, but you will not wonder about whether or not you enjoyed it. That will be a given.