On form, Frank Cottrell-Boyce is the best comic writer for children we have, streets ahead of all those later-turned-writer celebrities. But this story while lively and inventive as ever never quite takes off. Like a semi-dysfunctional firework, it splutters intermittently into life without ever delivering its truly big bang. Told as if from different child narrators, its basic theme is magicians past and present and some of the baffling tricks they have pulled off in their time. Boyce knows a lot about these and is also a handy guide to present-day famous stage or television magicians and their favourite acts. But his main cast here involves children not only trying their hands at the same thing but also succeeding beyond any sort of possibility at all.
Kidnapped to Las Vegas in search of the Blackpool Tower which has unaccountably disappeared, cousins Middy and Nathan along with another older cousin Brodie and his enormous pet rabbit soon make themselves at home. Being arrested early on by a very tolerant policeman in no way cramps their style, and their main aim, attendance at the last sell-out performance of the legendary magician Perplexion, still happens. But at this late stage the plot becomes both confused and ultimately confusing. While Cottrell-Boyce has much to say of interest about the nuts and bolts of stage magic, he seems at this moment to want to go further without quite knowing where that would lead. Steven Lenton’s relaxed comic-strip illustrations meanwhile are as always great fun. But while this sprightly story is a total must for any young reader contemplating trying out some of the more modest tricks for themselves it may not have quite the same success with a less engaged audience.