The Secret of Magic (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

Through a careful blend of mystery and magic, Mississippi author Deborah Johnson’s new book tells the story of reaction to a hate crime in the rural South. A decorated black soldier is murdered on the last leg of his trip home from World War II to Mississippi, sparking an investigation involving both his small-town community and the NAACP under Thurgood Marshall. When Marshall’s assistant, Regina, takes a personal interest in the case, she makes her way to the Deep South to try and make sense of the crime. From there, the novel becomes incredibly fast-paced. You won’t be able to stop until you’ve figured out all of the connections and secrets, and all the different meanings of magic.  --Mary Marge

Indie Next List

February 2014
A young lawyer who is sent by Thurgood Marshall to Mississippi in 1946 to investigate the murder of a black soldier encounters a world both surreal and mysterious. Regina Robichard learns that the Jim Crow South is a world unto itself, but she also learns the power of narrative and story as she meets a reclusive author who produced the book that influenced her childhood. This is a novel of subtlety, incisive portraits, and a brilliant evocation of a time and place on the cusp of momentous change. -- Bill Cusumano, Nicola's Books, Ann Arbor, MI


In 1946, a young female attorney from New York City attempts the impossible: attaining justice for a black man in the Deep South.
  Regina Robichard works for Thurgood Marshall, who receives an unusual letter asking the NAACP to investigate the murder of a returning black war hero. It is signed by M. P. Calhoun, the most reclusive author in the country.
  As a child, Regina was captivated by Calhoun’s The Secret of Magic, a novel in which white and black children played together in a magical forest.

Once down in Mississippi, Regina finds that nothing in the South is as it seems. She must navigate the muddy waters of racism, relationships, and her own tragic past. The Secret of Magic brilliantly explores the power of stories and those who tell them.  

About the Author

Deborah Johnson is the author of The Air Between Us, which received the Mississippi Library Association Award for fiction. She now lives in Columbus, Mississippi, and is working on her next novel.  

Praise for The Secret of Magic…

Reviews for The Secret of Magic by Deborah Johnson
"[A] riveting novel." —O, The Oprah magazine

"There are a million metaphors I could use to describe Deborah Johnson's writing in The Secret of Magic—but all of them are inadequate in conveying the ebb and flow of her phrasing or the care in crafting her characters.... If you liked The Help, you'll love this one! ... [T]he cadence of Johnson's writing is an absolute joy.... I can't think of any other recent book in which I have so enjoyed an author's actual stringing-together-of-words." —Entertainment Weekly

"Johnson offers a completely engaging southern gothic with unforgettable characters..." —Booklist

“A work of masterful storytelling, telling truth with fiction in a novel that comes alive with every word on the page. With as many curves as there are branches on magnolia trees, this novel will take you into the forest and leave a mark on you.”—The Herald-Sun

“[A] spellbinding novel of a young, female, black attorney trying to earn justice for a murdered World War II hero.”—San Antonio Express-News

“A passionate, nuanced drama about Southern race relations...provocative.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“I found this story about race, The South, our country, part history, part mystery—never disappointing. Like The South she tragically portrays, The Secret of Magic is a layered tale of the best and worst of our history, beautifully wrought by a master storyteller.” —Robert Hicks, New York Times bestselling author of Widow of the South and A Separate Country   “The secret (and magic) in The Secret of Magic is in Deborah Johnson’s powerful writing, creating character and story that will linger long after the reading.” —Terry Kay, author of To Dance with the White Dog and The Book of Marie   “Johnson’s story brings authentic history to light, yet suggests a seed of reconciliation. Fantastic!” —Augusta Trobaugh, author of Sophie and the Rising Sun and The Tea-Olive Bird Watching Society

“A spirited portrayal of the postwar South.”—Publishers Weekly

“Get a copy of Deborah Johnson’s The Secret of Magic [and] expect the unexpected…A disturbing, but fair, look at life in Mississippi and the South in a turbulent time that lasted far too long. We need to know about that history, however, to move forward.”—The Oxford Eagle

Product Details ISBN-10: 0399157727
ISBN-13: 9780399157721
Published: Putnam Adult, 01/21/2014
Pages: 416
Language: English
Recommended Reading Level Minimum Age: 18
Maximum Age: UP
Minimum Grade Level: College Freshman
Maximum Grade Level: Up