Sherlock Holmes and Irene Doyle are as riveted as the rest of the audience. They are celebrating Irene's sixteenth birthday at the Egyptian Hall as Alistair Hemsworth produces a real and very deadly dragon before their eyes. This single, fantastic illusion elevates the previously unheralded magician to star status, making him the talk of London. He even outshines the Wizard of Nottingham, his rival on and off the stage.
Sherlock and Irene rush backstage after the show to meet the great man, only to witness Inspector Lestrade and his son arrest the performer. It seems one-upmanship has not been as satisfying to Hemsworth as the notion of murder. The Wizard is missing; his spectacles and chunks of flesh have been discovered in pools of blood in Hemsworth's secret workshop. That, plus the fact that Nottingham has stolen Hemsworth's wife away, speak of foul play and motive. There is no body, but there has certainly been a grisly death.
The Lestrades are certain they have their man, but ever-observant Sherlock is not so sure. Night visits to the workshop turn up clues that don't add up to a closed case. The deeper Holmes digs, the more this mystery becomes an illusion; a deadly game of smoke and mirrors. Before it plays out, the boy will have to consider far more than Hemsworth's guilt or innocence. He may even come to believe in magic and the existence of dragons.