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Magic Can Be Murder
Vivian Vande Velde
Harcourt Brace & Co., 208 pages

Tristan Elwell
Magic Can Be Murder
Vivian Vande Velde
Vivian Vande Velde is the author of Tales from the Brothers Grimm and the Sisters Weird, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, A Hidden Magic, The Conjurer Princess, and many other fine fantasy novels. She lives with her husband and daughter in Rochester, New York.

ISFDB Bibliography
Vivian Vande Velde Bibliography
SF Site Review: Never Trust a Dead Man
SF Site Review: The Conjurer Princess
SF Site Review: A Coming Evil

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Hank Luttrell

Nola and her mother are witches -- not that it does them much good. They don't seem to be very powerful or versatile. Mostly, it is a source of concern for them, lest they be discovered. The pair could be arrested for witchcraft or, even more likely and dangerous, attacked by an angry mob. As a result, they must always be careful not to reveal themselves to others. They spend most of their lives travelling, unable to have a stable home or friends.

One of Nola's spells involves placing a strand of someone's hair in a pool of water, enchanting the water, and using a magical image to spy on that person's current activities. Perhaps because she is young, but also because she is so wary of others, this is one of Nola's favourite spells, and more than once causes her problems.

Another complication in Nola's life is that her mother is getting on in age, and sometimes needs some help.

While seeking food and shelter, the two work briefly for a silversmith's family. Nola's spying trick allows her to witness a murder within the household. The murder prompts the arrival of the authorities, which of course complicates Nola's desire to escape detection. She also wants to see the murderer brought to justice.

The plot of Magic Can Be Murder becomes increasingly dangerous when Nola assumes another character's appearance, with the aid of another of her spells. Nola's ploys and schemes complicate and re-complicate her dilemma. The story becomes tense and frightening as it seems increasingly unlikely that Nola will escape detection. Also Nola and other characters are in danger from the murderer!

Magic Can Be Murder is an entertaining fantasy for any reader, but since the story is complex yet simply told, it is particularly appropriate for intelligent younger or reluctant readers.

Copyright © 2001 Hank Luttrell

Hank Luttrell has reviewed science fiction for newspapers, magazines and web sites. He was nominated for the Best Fanzine Hugo Award and is currently a bookseller in Madison, Wisconsin.

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