A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the occasionally unnatural narration and a few odd breaks can't derail the steadily building tension of this truly chilling tale. Plenty of plot twists and scary surprises keep readers guessing all the way through. A sufficiently complex plot (and even a hint of romance) keeps older mystery fans intrigued.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
High school junior Lisa fantasizes about becoming a magician, but her parents' ambitions for her have her focusing more on grades than on magic. Little does she know that her knowledge of illusion will be her secret weapon against a killer.
When Lisa and three classmates have car trouble on a stormy night, they stop at a spooky old house to use the phone. When the man who lets them in disappears, the kids wonder if there's something dangerous going on.
As the four explore the house, they find plaster heads and trick cabinets, tools of a practiced magician. Lisa also finds letters and clippings revealing the magician's disturbing history. Soon spooky whispers and moving props make them think someone's playing tricks on them. When the power goes out and the tricks get more dangerous, Lisa must use all her sleight of hand to save her friends.
Is it any good?
"Sometimes the kids don't seem scared enough," was one 12-year-old's reaction to A DEADLY GAME OF MAGIC. True, Lisa and her friends remain remarkably levelheaded after they realize someone's stalking them, even stopping occasionally to fix snacks, tell jokes, and discuss career plans. But, ironically, the characters' amazing calmness is partly what makes the book so scary. If they panicked the moment they found the first plaster head, the story would have nowhere to go. Instead, Joan Lowery Nixon keeps piling on the sinister details, and when the characters finally get frightened, readers will be rushing to lock the doors and turn on more lights.
Lisa herself is the most sensible member of the group, and although readers might grow impatient with how her plans always seem to work when no one else's do, they'll still be impressed with her magic skills and her determination to solve the mystery. Lisa's first-person narrative occasionally seems stiff, but this won't distract most kids, who will be sucked in by the mystery.