A Deadly Game of Magic



A unique and truly suspenseful story.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Bo accuses Julian, a dancer, of being less than a real man. The boys want to protect the girls from danger.


Teena slashes an attacker with a skewer. The villain injures a dog and hits Bo over the head. Lisa suspects that a woman has been murdered, but the reader isn't shown any details.

Not applicable

Occasional mild profanity.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

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.

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.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about scary stories. What makes this particular tale so spine-chilling? Do you enjoy being frightened by creepy stories?

Book details

Author:Joan Lowery Nixon
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Random House
Publication date:January 1, 1983
Number of pages:148
Publisher's recommended age(s):10 - 14

This review of A Deadly Game of Magic was written by

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 14 years old Written byyvettex24x@aim.com November 28, 2009


This book was AMAZING!!:) i really enjoyed the mystery behind it. This book might be a bit "scary" but its a book i'd recomend to be shared with everyone. I hope a movie is made.
Teen, 13 years old Written byrily555 December 10, 2008


I dont have much to say about this book other than its totaly awesome
Teen, 14 years old Written bylive-love-peace April 9, 2008

It was okay...

This book wasn't that great. It had a suspenseful plot, but left me hanging at the end, with a bit of disappointment. I wanted to know more! Perhaps some people like that feeling of uncertainty - it gets their imaginations flowing - but I am one who does not. However unique the idea of the story was, the writing style was too generic for my liking.


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