Book Review: The Shoemaker’s Magician by Cynthia Pelayo

Just because I brought great gifts to humanity does not mean my presence is benign.


A fabled lost movie. An increasing body count. How much do you risk for art?

Paloma has been watching the Grand Vespertilio Show her entire life. Grand, America’s most beloved horror host showcases classic, low-budget and cult horror movies with a flourish, wearing his black tuxedo and hat, but Paloma has noticed something strange about Grand, stranger than his dark make-up and Gothic television set.

After Paloma’s husband, a homicide detective, discovers an obscure movie poster pinned on a mutilated corpse on stage at the Chicago Theater, she knows that the only person that can help solve this mystery is Grand. When another body appears at an abandoned historic movie palace the deaths prove to be connected to a silent film, lost to the ages, but somehow at the center of countless tragedies in Chicago.

The closer Paloma gets to Grand she discovers that his reach is far greater than her first love, horror movies, and even this film. And she soon becomes trapped between protecting a silent movie that’s contributed to so much death in her city and the life of her young son.



I pre-ordered the novel months ago and perhaps out of the sheer will of manifestation (or is it magick) it somehow appeared in my Kindle library two weeks before the actual release date. Obviously, I was overjoyed.

Where do I even begin? I read Pelayo’s first book Children of Chicago and absolutely loved it (and will forever feel lucky that she sent me a promo book box for it and you should absolutely read the interview she did for the blog here). This book, like the previous one, is standalone, however, it does reference some characters from the previous book (and I’m a sucker for writers keeping their stories in the same “world” so to speak). I’m a lover of fairytales, fables, horror show hosts (Elvira was the reason why I got into horror movies at the tender age of two), cursed films, occult, Greek myths, and murders. This is to say, that this book had SO MUCH that I love – and I was so happy that it delivered tenfold.

First of all, I loved the protagonist Paloma – a woman who not only overcame a terribly abusive childhood but that was a loving mother to her son Bela (hands down the coolest kid in a horror book, ever) and a badass horror influencer. I’m a huge fan of old horror movies and silent movies in general, so obviously I was geeking out at all the movies mentioned that I’ve seen a million times. I loved how she and Bela would chill out at Logan’s Theatre and watch horror movies as though it were a second home cause it reminds me of my own local theatre that a friend of mine owns, where going there 2-3 times a week is like visiting family – cause for those of yes who love movies, you’ll understand the potency and magick of the moving picture.

Pelayo is a very talented writer, however, I do want to acknowledge that this second novel showed so much growth as a storyteller – with the richness of the details, research, and basically soul of the book. Yes, the book is about trying to track down a serial killer, but it’s also so much more. It’s about the importance of art, love, and magick, and how all those things are intermingled.

I don’t want to share too much about the plot because I think you need to slowly discover this tale, that’s filled with mystery, darkness, history, and monsters. It’s incredibly gripping, each page dripping with the emotion of someone who has not only suffered but that also loves in tremendous amounts. In fact, if there’s a lesson to take from this extended fable is that anything you do out of love will always be worth it.

If you’re a fan of horror, cinema, Chicago history, and detective stories, then this is for you.


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