A Criminal Magic

By: Lee Kelly


They say it takes a village to raise a child, and I’m pretty sure the same should be said of a book. Endless love and thanks to my parents, Joe and Linda Appicello, for always being there for me: as sounding boards, career managers, babysitters, beta readers. This book simply wouldn’t have been possible without you. To my husband, Jeff, my best friend and biggest champion, who believes in me and encourages me even when (especially when) I most doubt myself. Thanks to my sisters, Bridget and Jill, for the late-night conference calls and virtual martinis, and for reading this book in all of its first-draft messiness, as well as to my parents-­in-law, Alice and Paul Kelly, who were true lifelines during this book’s revisions. And of course, to Penn and Summer, for all of the joy and for reminding me of what matters most. You guys are my village, and what an awesome village it is.

A million thanks to my brilliant and amazing agent, Adriann Ranta, for being my champion, for the constant support and encouragement, and for always making time, and to her partners-­in-crime, Allison Devereux and the entire Wolf Literary family.

Endless thanks to my talented and incisive editor, Navah Wolfe—her insight and guidance helped me shape what vaguely resembled what I was trying to accomplish into a story I’m very proud of. Thank you for challenging me and for pushing me, Navah, and for those “You Can Do This” emails at the beginning of our process that meant the world.

Many thanks to the rest of the Simon & Schuster family who made this book possible, including Joe Monti, Saga Press’s fearless editorial director; designer Michael McCartney, who is batting a thousand on Saga Press covers; the incredible ­managing editor Bridget Madsen; Jacquelynne Hudson, for her interior design savviness; wonderful production manager Elizabeth Blake-Linn; ace publicist Ksenia Winnicki; Valerie Shea, for her copyediting chops; and fabulous design coordinator Tiara Iandioro. Thanks as well to Steve Stone, who illustrated the beautiful cover on the front of this book.

Thanks to the Freshman Fifteens, the Class of 2K15, and the Fearless Fifteeners for their continued support over the past few years, particularly my friends and confidantes Chandler Baker, Virginia Boecker, Jen Brooks, Kelly Loy Gilbert, Lori Goldstein, and Kim Liggett. And much appreciation to my fantastic critique partners, Erika David and Lisa Koosis—Erika, your cheerleading meant so much on this one.

And last but perhaps most, thanks to the readers. To me, the fact that this book is in your hands is the absolute best kind of magic.





Magic can achieve a lot of things, but it can’t undo the past. I’ve sworn off sorcery, buried my magic with earth, blood, and tears below the ground, but I’d gladly sell my soul to use it just once more, if sorcery could find a way to bring me back in time. If it could bring me right to the edge of where I once stood and shattered my world into tiny shards, and make me walk away instead.

I’ve managed to trick myself from time to time. Even after all these months, I’ll sometimes wake up and forget for those few hazy minutes between sleep and morning, and the world will feel different. Like all the color hasn’t been stolen out of it, like she might be in her spell room mixing lavender and poppy, whispering her words of power, sneaking in some work before breakfast as dawn creeps into the windows behind her. It’s such a warm and comfortable feeling, like burrowing into a blanket, and I want to snuggle in tight, burrow a little deeper, even as my mind’s coming into focus, even as my heart’s catching on to being duped and starts beating faster, faster, then double time.

And then it hits me like an avalanche of bricks.

She’s gone.

But that’s the problem with tricks. The world can feel even emptier, once their hold on you is over.

I start drying the load of glasses I’ve just rinsed, ­arranging the tumblers on the bar behind me like an army of clear, thin soldiers. Out the window, the gray sky of late afternoon has deepened into a sad twilight over our backyard clearing. It’s almost five o’clock, and both our sham liquor bar and Uncle Jed’s shining room need straightening. I don’t have the luxury of running headfirst into the dark right now, of getting lost again in the black woods of the past.

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