This utterly mesmerising tale ensnared me like a willing moth to a flame and held me in its dark enchantment from start to finish. The mystery, magic, superstition and unexpected twists are perfectly cloaked in a richly portrayed Victorian society with fascinating characters who grabbed my attention from the opening.
Leander has recently been orphaned and is finding his new life a real struggle, sometimes having to resort to stealing in order to stave off his desperate hunger. After one such theft, he finds himself running from his pursuer and, eager to escape, discovers a rather unusual carriage – and the enigmatic Madame Pinchbeck. She offers to help him by buying his mother’s locket but, after an intriguing warning, he refuses to sell it.
Dire circumstances, however, lead him back to Madame Pinchbeck. She preys on his desire to speak to his mother again, telling him that she can make his dearest wish come true as she is a medium. Unable to resist and desperate for some kindness, Leander hands over his most precious possession, and finds himself cruelly caught by Pinchbeck’s magical ability. Too late, he realises that he has made a terrible mistake, and finds himself vanished into his mother’s locket which is now his prison (known as a ‘cabinet’) where a piece of his soul has been trapped, leaving him vulnerable and at the mercy of Madame Pinchbeck.
Leander is not the only child trapped by this dark magic. He soon meets Charlotte and Felix who apprise him of his new situation. They are inextricably bound to Madame Pinchbeck who uses them as part of her act to trick her rich Victorian clients during seances. So begins an incredibly atmospheric, tension-filled, dark and dangerous tale as the children race to escape from the clutches of Madame Pinchbeck before one of them might disappear forever …
Oh my goodness! I was instantly captured by the absorbing plot which is enticingly intricate and intriguing and so very, very clever! My heart was racing as I turned the pages to find out how all the layers were woven together and I was not disappointed. I don’t want to go into details for fear of giving away spoilers but, suffice to say, this is a story that will take you on an enthralling and sinister adventure, revealing secrets, twists and shocks galore along the way. I am in awe of how all the threads in this story came together so perfectly and with such heart-warming satisfaction.
The Victorian setting for the story is richly imagined with its portrayal of the lives of the rich and poor in society and its dual fascination with spiritualism and technology, both used to sinister effect by Madame Pinchbeck.
What can I say about Madame Pinchbeck? She is a deliciously dark and complex villain who appears sugary sweet in her fake sincerity on the outside in order to ensnare her victims, but has an insidious darkness inside: vengeful, sinister and hungry for riches and fame. She is a child snatcher on par with the Pied Piper of Hamelin and the Child Catcher.
The three children, Leander, Charlotte and Felix, are incredibly endearing and courageous. They are all suffering from heart-breaking loss, are desperately searching for something which is precious to them and, having found each other, come to develop wonderfully sincere friendships full of trust, loyalty and love. They work as a team in order to survive, supporting and helping each other despite the great risks they take and their terror of their captor. My heart broke for them, but was also filled with warmth as I understood that, even in their moments of greatest danger, they would never give up on each other.
The Vanishing Trick is an utterly gripping mystery brimming with peril, eeriness and spine-tingling darkness, but also with friendship, warmth and hope. This really is a must-read which I cannot recommend highly enough.
Thank you to the Publishers, Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for an e-ARC in return for my honest opinion.