I just (finally) finished Carter Beats the Devil, by Glen David Gold. I borrowed this from a friend who had great things to say about it, and those great things were somewhat corroborated by a fellow BGBer. The chain of great things stops here.
Look at the cover of this book — Satan, cards, a tuxedo, a funny hat — what self-respecting potential reader could turn it down? Well, suffice it to say that the cover tells very little about the story behind it. In the story, there’s a magician, some other magicians, a President, a lion, an elephant, some secret service guys, pirates, torture devices, tough chicks (one of whom is blind), motorcycles, fights, daring escapes, a lusty librarian, and more, but not in any particular order. The story features some parallel story lines that are supposed to catch up to one another at the end, and I guess they do, but not in a satisfying way (at least for me).
I think it’s safe to say that the main storyline is based on the career of Charles Carter, p/k/a “Carter the Great” (apparently he was a real magician) and allegations that he murdered President Harding (apparently he was a real President). But so much stuff is thrown in here about secret service guys, competing magicians, and representatives from the military and from RCA, that it’s hard to tell who’s a good guy and who’s a bad guy. Normally that would be okay, if it led to suspense and the twists and turns befitting a well-developed thriller. But here, I couldn’t buy in to what appeared to be the eventual motives driving the actions of all of the characters. I just didn’t get it.
I’m pretty sure I know what happened when all was said and done, but for some reason by the time it was all said and done I just didn’t care anymore — I just wanted to finish for the sake of finishing. If anyone else can shed some insight into what made this book good for them, maybe I’ll reflect differently on it. But in the meantime, this one goes in the “mistake” pile.