Disappearing Nightly  - Laura Resnick This was my first Laura Resnick but it won’t be my last. I was wavering about this novel’s rating. Some chapters, I wanted to give it 5 stars. Others, my estimation slid to 3 stars. Average: 4 stars.
Mishaps of the disappearing acts plague the magicians of New York. Their assistants disappear. Seriously. Every time a magician performs a disappearing trick on stage, his assistant vanishes, never to be seen again. The magicians of the city are beginning to panic.
The protagonist Esther is a no-nonsense young woman and a struggling actress, working for a magician’s show as one of the glittering, half-dressed nymphs of the chorus. She is an understudy to the star of the show, a B-list singer Golly, so when Golly goes missing during a disappearing act, Esther is ready to step up and finally grab her chance for a leading role. Unfortunately, she starts getting warning messages from an unknown source: “Don’t enter the disappearing box. You’re in danger. Evil is afoot.”
Esther doesn’t believe in Evil; she is an actress after all, but she believes in reality. Golly’s disappearance bothers her. When she learns that more than one magician’s assistant has disappeared in the city in the last few days, she decides to heed the messages and investigate. For that, she teams up with Max, a 300+ years old New York resident magician: after he convinces her of his identity and of the fact that magic exists. Other assorted magicians, real and theatrical, help Esther and Max in their efforts to find the villain who is causing the disappearances.
Max is a highly picturesque character, the linchpin of this story. He adds flavor to every scene, and most of his dialogues are so hilarious, I sometimes couldn’t see the pages behind my tears of laughter. When Max was young, still a sorcerer’s apprentice in the 17th century, his master fed him the Elixir of Life by accident, as a substitute for a fever medicine, so now Max ages very slowly, and all his considerable magical experience is dedicated to fighting the minions of Evil in New York. Max is also extremely truthful. Imagine a conversation, when a NYPD officer questions Max about the assistants’ disappearances.
The story hovers between mystery and urban fantasy, with enough absurdities (like a spell that works only on Lithuanians) to fill an entire magical prop shop. With reluctant Esther at the helm, the group investigating the disappearances includes, besides Max, a bunch of exotic drag queens, a millionaire condom manufacturer/amateur magician, and a son of a Wall Street financial mogul, also an amateur magician who is striving to make it professionally. Together, they enact a magic-imbued PI procedural worthy of the most ridiculous of CSI episodes.
The novel was a delicious reading fare, punctuated by my giggles and occasional whooping. The only problem I had with this book concerned its pace. While the first half of the novel, where Esther acquires her investigating crew, gallops with the speed of a racing horse, the second part, the investigation itself, is much more slow, practically crawling like a snail. The characters do nothing but talk, eat, and write their speculations on a blackboard. Until the very end, when Esther and Max at last spring into action and deliver all the disappearees safely back to their respective magicians.
Disappearees is a word the author coined for this book, and it seems very apt. This book made my blues disappear. Recommended to anyone who needs a lift in spirit.