The show must go on, as stage actress Esther Diamond is well aware. Understudying the potentially career-making role of Virtue in the off-Broadway musical Sorcerer!, she has mixed feelings when the lead actress disappears in the middle of the big finale. Thrilled at the chance of a starring role, Esther is determined to go on, despite threatening notes that warn her of meeting the same fate if she steps into the role. When Esther learns that other women have begun disappearing during the same magic trick that closes the show, she starts to worry and takes her concerns to sexy, skeptical detective Connor Lopez, who thinks she's more than a little nuts.

Esther starts to question her own sanity when an odd little man materializes in her dressing room and tells her he's Maximilian Zadok, a 350-year-old wizard fighting supernatural evil in New York City. Drawn into the mystery of the disappearance, Esther struggles to come to grips with the existence of actual magic. Between rehearsing, flirting with Lopez, translocating and battling demons, Esther's life has suddenly become anything but mundane.

With a wry, tongue-in-cheek style reminiscent of Janet Evanovich, this entertaining tale pokes fun at the deadly serious urban fantasy subgenre while drawing the reader into a fairly well-plotted mystery. The larger-than-life characters are apropos to the theatrical setting, and Esther's charming, self-deprecating voice makes her an appealingly quirky heroine. The chemistry between Esther and Lopez sizzles, while scenes of slapstick comedy will have the reader laughing out loud and eager for further tales of Esther's adventures. (Dec., 416 pp., $13.95)
Reviewed by: 
Jen Talley Exum