Crimes Against Magic – book review

Book cover art for Crimes Against Magic by Steve McHughCrimes Against Magic is the debut novel by Steve McHugh.

Set in modern day London but with a host of historical and fantasy characters, the story creates a world in which the ancient and the modern don’t seem so far removed. Magic still exists and there are things that haunt the dark places of the world.

Ten years ago, Nate Garrett woke up in an alley with no memory of his past life. In building himself a new life as a contract thief, he has discovered a lot about himself, including his abilities as a sorcerer, but the truth about his past eludes him.

Hired to steal a laptop full of corporate secrets, he approaches the job like any other, but a nasty surprise is waiting for him. The secrets locked away in his mind interest a lot of people and some of the secrets are very dark indeed.

Nate has to rely on his instincts and the friendships he has formed in the ten years since his memory was obliterated. As things spiral out of control, he ends up in a race against time to figure out who he really is, in the hope that it’s someone who knows how to win what looks like an impossible fight.

When I first started reading Crimes Against Magic, the use of amnesia set off warning bells but McHugh handles the concept thoughtfully. It defines Nate’s character through both his unwillingness to form strong connections to the people around him and a ubiquitous sense of hiatus and expectation. Rather than a weak cliché plot device, it is a central shadow which touches and informs every element of the story.

While it takes a little while to get to the meat of the story, there is plenty of action to hold the reader’s interest right from the get go. While I didn’t hit that point of not being able to put it down until somewhere around the last third, I certainly never felt like I wanted to put it down for good.

Fans of urban fantasy and classic myths and legends will find plenty to love. There’s also plenty of fast cars and guns, fiery women and gritty fist fights, so I think this book would check a lot of boxes among readers of crime, thriller and action adventure too.

Crimes Against Magic is available to buy from Amazon right now.

If you’d like to know more, and for a chance to WIN A FREE COPY of Crimes Against Magic, head on over to The Great Escape, where we have an interview with the author himself.

Finally, here’s a taster of the book for you to enjoy…

I raised my hand, so that the back faced Jasmine. She stared in shock as lines of brilliant white crisscrossed my skin. If I’d been shirtless she would have seen it continue up my arms and across my chest and back.

Wonder changed to panic as Jasmine fought for breath. “I’m sorry,” I said as she passed out into my arms. “I’m a sorcerer,” I whispered as I laid her on the bed and pulled the covers over her body.

She’d wake up in about twenty minutes with a headache, but that was about the extent of the damage I’d done by removing all the oxygen from her lungs. I made my way over to a large painting opposite the bed. It depicted the party hosts in some sort of regal pose. A small dog sat in the woman’s arms. The whole thing looked ridiculous.

I pulled the painting off the wall, placed it gently on the floor, and turned back to the now exposed safe. The steel was cold as I placed my palm against it. A moment later the white spider web-like pattern re-emerged across the back of my hand and wrist. After a few seconds of concentration the steel began to buckle and warp. A moment later the air pressure I’d created was enough to bend the safe’s door, snapping it free of its hinges. I tossed the metal door with ease onto a thick padded chair armchair nearby, where it landed with a soft thud.

Inside the safe was a large quantity of money, some jewellery, and a small black box, just big enough for a paperback book. I ignored the money and jewellery and removed the box, opening it to reveal the leather-bound book inside. The pages looked old and worn, and the leather appeared singed in places. It seemed like a complete waste of vast quantities of money. But then it wasn’t my money that had bought it.

I dropped the box back into the safe and placed the book inside a satin pouch I’d brought with me. I slipped it into my jacket’s inside pocket before replacing the painting, and hiding the ruined safe door behind a chest of drawers. It would give me some time before anyone noticed something was wrong.

One last glance at the still unconscious Jasmine and I left the room, taking the key with me. Once in the hallway, I locked the door and pushed the key back into the room, using the crack between the door and carpet. I’d rather Jasmine let herself out when she was ready. And I wasn’t worried about her telling everyone she’d seen me.

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