A Criminal Magic: a novel by Lee Kelly. New York: Saga Press, 2016. 422 pages. ****
The 36th state ratifies the Anti-Sorcery Amendment on January 16, 1919. It's now the mid 1920s and Prohibition is in full swing in Washington, D.C. The Roaring Twenties bring with them the lure of forbidden fruit and the temptation of escaping reality. The anti-sorcery activists have driven the magic underground and into the hands of gangsters and those controlling the profits from the sorcerer's shine. Joan Kendrick, a young independent sorcerer from Virginia, wants to make a better life for her sister and cousin so she accepts an offer to work for a crime syndicate. Alex Danfrey, with a troubled past in illegal activities, agrees to work as a Federal Prohibition Unit trainee and infiltrate the crime syndicate and gangs. Joan and Alex meet and form an instant bond. While harboring their secrets and reasons why they shouldn't be together, they confide in each other with disastrous results.
I'm not sure what genre this story falls under, maybe a fantasy historical fiction. Instead of banning alcohol, magic is prohibited. All the elements of the crime underworld are historically portrayed in its ruthlessness and violence. Human life comes second to big profits and power. Joan and Alex are each drawn into this underworld for their own reasons and find the humanity in each other. While I had an initial difficulty getting into the story and plot (could have been my tiredness or the craziness of the season, it's Christmas week) once I understood what was going on, I was captivated and enjoyed the inventiveness of the author. Definitely worth a read.
I received an Advanced Reviewer Copy from BookSparks for a review.
Lee Kelly has wanted to write since she was old enough to hold a pencil, but it wasn't until she began studying fir the California bar exam that she conveniently started putting pen to paper. An entertainment lawyer by trade, Lee has practiced law in Los Angeles and New York. She lives with her husband and son in Milburn, New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter @leeykelly and on her website at http://www.newwritecity.com.