Published by Infinity Publishing
I first met John Michaels preparing to go to his high school reunion in Alfred Albers' first book in this series, "Of Ghosts and Magic". After reading "A Pocket Full of Voices", I can see that the character has come a long way. John Michaels is a world renowned magician. Though retired he still performs many shows a year in smaller versions of his original acts. When he receives a call from a Mount Hope City, NJ lawyer, he learns that an old circuit friend, Gary Egan, is in trouble, so it's off to Mount Hope with wife Stella.
Gary is an exceptional ventriloquist, but he has been accused of thefts from celebrities who have attended his shows. The thing of it is that his voice was mimicked from the audience while room numbers were being called out, and this particular voice gives the room number of the attending celebrity, who later reports a theft from their room. Fortunately, Gary is released on his own recognizance and so is able to work unofficially in the background with John on his case, keeping in constant touch with his lawyer(s). John has often used his talents of observation and diversion in investigations.
Alfred M. Albers writes with a clarity of detail not often seen in this type of fiction. He also writes with great humour, especially in this book where Grumpy Perkins, Gary's not-so-dumb dummy, does his schtick. Grumpy has a rather funny sarcastic bent, but very successful for the character. Put together a magician and a ventriloquist and you get a very different take on a suspenseful murder mystery. As bodies begin to pile up, time is running out. Between humour and violence it begins to seem like two opposing sides of a coin. This is not your everyday cozy mystery, it definitely has much more to it, though still somewhat in the cozy murder mystery genre. The camaraderie between the people trying to help Gary, the interaction between Gary and Grumpy, and the increasing pace of the crimes make for a great variation and addition to this series. As always, I really enjoy reading books where I learn something new and this did not disappoint. I am looking forward to more of John Michaels in future books.