O'Connell brings back New York detective Kathy Mallory in the fifth book in this highly praised series. Illusion has never been a part of Mallory's life. This no-frills, seemingly unemotional cop has learned the hard way that there is no magic in the world and that things are rarely what they seem. So when an old magician attempts the dangerous "lost illusion" and dies before thousands of live spectators and television viewers, she is the only cop who believes that the death is not the accident it seems but rather a carefully crafted and well-executed murder. The dead man was one of a group of aging magicians who, as boys of 18, had worked together as magicians' apprentices in occupied Paris during World War II. The men use misdirection and sleight of hand to divert Mallory. Meanwhile, in typical fashion, she tries her own brand of hard-edged cons and threats to find the truth. Reader Roberta Germaine's performance of this riveting story takes some time to get used to: her portrayals of Mallory's partner Riker and long-time friend Charles Butler are weak, and she falls back on stereotypes to convey the personalities too often. Her rendering of Mallory is somewhat better, although Germaine takes to whispering every internal thought, a habit that makes even the most mundane or sarcastic idea sound slightly sinister. However, her performance of the collection of aging magicians soars. Her accents and characterizations are distinct and wholly believable, and every scene in which any of the group appears is a pure pleasure. Recommended for popular mystery collections.DJennifer Belford, Addison P.L., IL Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.