SLEIGHT OF HAND: A Novel of Suspense. By Phillip Margolin. Harper. 320 pages. $26.99.

Private investigator Dana Cutler returns in “Sleight of Hand,” Phillip Margolin’s best book in years. Deception is prominent, and the villain is truly vile.

Charles Benedict is a criminal defense lawyer, amateur magician and cold-blooded killer.

Ten years earlier, millionaire Horace Blair persuaded the prosecutor in his DUI case to marry him.

He also persuaded her to sign a prenuptial agreement that promised her $20 million if she remained faithful for the first 10 years of their marriage.

Two days before the payout, Benedict slips her a date-rape drug and videotapes the deed. When she confronts him and demands the truth, he kills her. Benedict then frames Blair for the crime.

Meanwhile, Cutler receives a cryptic offer to investigate the theft of a scepter with origins in the Ottoman Empire. As it takes her across the country, she realizes the pieces don’t fit and she might have been set up.

A magician never reveals his secrets, and like the best prestidigitators, Margolin manipulates readers into believing one thing, then reveals the surprising truth.

In “Sleight of Hand,” he has created a legal thriller that’s guaranteed to mislead and shock readers.

Reviewer Jeff Ayers writes for The Associated Press.