"New Tricks," John Levitt

Pros: Gorgeous world; interesting plot; unusual “hero”
Cons: Villain lost some dimensions at the end; not everyone will like the style
Rating: 4 out of 5

Review book courtesy of Penguin Group.


In Mason’s world, magic is real. He sometimes gets work as an enforcer, ensuring that practitioners obey the rules and don’t expose them all to the normal people who’d rather not know about them. He’d rather simply play his guitar, of course, but that doesn’t pay as well. His companion and best friend is Lou, a… well, a dog, sort of. But on this Halloween, he’s also going to go meet up with some other acquaintances from the enforcer business. Halloween is the one night a year on which practitioners can use their magic in public (with certain restrictions), but that isn’t why he’s going. Instead, he’s going because something is once again very wrong, and practitioners are winding up dead—or, well, worse.


I have not read the first book in this series, Dog Days, but I didn’t feel lost in John Levitt’s New Tricks. Like many novels in detective series most of what you miss is simply the story of the last adventure, with characters and the universe re-introduced in each book. The book has a slow, introspective pace to it that some will love (it has a nice noir-ish feel), but won’t be to everyone’s taste.

The plot is solid and enjoyable. While I was able to guess at the culprit, there were sufficient red herrings and questions remaining that I was never entirely sure until the end, and that’s the way it ought to be. The world is wonderful—it has a smoky urban fantasy feel, with Mason’s beloved jazz curling in-between the pages (I probably would have gotten even more out of the book if I knew much about music, but that lack of knowledge didn’t interfere with my enjoyment). The characters—particularly the side characters surrounding Mason—have plenty of life to them, and many of them are quite interesting.

Mason himself is an intriguing hero, not at all standard, and I loved that. His reactions to things were very much not stereotypical, particularly not young-single-male stereotypical, and that made him a fantastic lead character.

Unfortunately, my one real complaint is that the villain didn’t fare so well at the end. Which is odd, because there were plenty of indications of depth before that. Somehow at the end most of those dimensions dropped away and we ended up in cheesy villain land, and that was disappointing. The background reasons and explanations were interesting, but the manner in which they were delivered and explained turned the whole thing into one of those “confessions of an eeeeevil villain” scenes. This doesn’t stop me from recommending this book, particularly since endings are really tough to write and I’d rather the presentation of the ending be off than the actual events. Hopefully the next book will see an improvement in that area!

[Note: minor explicit sex, but it isn’t a large component of the book, nor particularly prurient at all.]

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