The Illusionists

By Louise Ure

You’ve heard of the work of Julian Beever, right? He’s the chalk artist who has been creating optical illusion drawings on sidewalks in Europe, the U.S., Australia and Brazil for the last decade.


Although his drawing surface is simply flat pavement, he uses a technique called anamorphosis to create the illusion of three dimensions when viewed from the correct angle.


From flat, gray pavers Beever builds a world of chasms and pools, globes and spheres. Entire city blocks that exist just inches under your feet.




But when viewed from any other angle, the drawing makes no sense at all.


That’s the same globe, stretched out over forty feet in order to create the 3D effect.

Anamorphosis — creating a three dimensional world from a flat, blank surface — is a pretty good description of writing, too. But it’s even more relevant to the mystery writer, because this trompe l’oeil can only be achieved when viewing it from the proper angle.

And that’s what solving mysteries is all about.

If the characters in our books stood at the right angle … if they had the right perspective … enough information … there would be no mystery at all. All the pieces would fit.

But one character might be standing at the side. He might only know his tiny bit of the story.

Another character might be in the middle of it all, adding scratchy chalk marks that look inconsequential until viewed from the right angle.

The protagonist may stare at the pavement until the colors swirl and blur before his eyes, but he won’t be able to see the whole picture until he arrives at just that perfect spot and sees how all the pieces fit together.


It’s all about illusion and perspective. The point of view we choose. Whether or not to get inside a character’s head. Red herrings. Lies. Suspects. Subtly dropped clues. Unreliable narrators. Misdirection. Plot twists.

And whether it’s a thriller, a horror story, a bit of noir or a traditional mystery, when we do it right, the reader thinks it’s magic. So do I.

Here’s to the magic.

P.S. The Fault Tree goes on sale today. I’ll be on the road,  laughing, scratching and telling lies. Hope to see you there!



27 thoughts on “The Illusionists

  1. Karen Olson

    All I can say is: Wow! How cool are those 3-D drawings! And you’re absolutely right about how they can reflect what we’re trying to do with our work.

    And here’s another hearty endorsement for THE FAULT TREE. Truly an amazing book, with its own illusions and tricks that kept me reading far into the night! Happy Launch Day, Louise!

  2. Louise Ure

    Hi Patty,

    Beever’s work is pretty extrordinary, isn’t it? It took me a long time of oohing and aahing at it before I realized the natural link to what we try to do each day.

  3. Allison Brennan

    I’ve never heard of Julian Beever, either, and that is extraordinary! I have no artistic talent whatsoever. My 6 year old draws better stick figures than me.

    Good luck with your release! I just love your cover, like I said at evil-e.

  4. Louise Ure

    From your lips to Marilyn Stasio’s ears, Elaine.

    Jena, if I could only execute that brilliant optical illusion to the same level of genius that Beever does!

    And Allison, it pleases me greatly that Beever’s work is new to you and Patty and maybe a few others. There have been emails with his images circulating on the internet for the last three years or so, but I always figure that by the time I get one, everybody else thinks it’s old news. Glad to have introduced you to him.

  5. Sharon Wheeler

    I’d never seen the ‘flat’ version of the paintings either. Fascinating!

    And good luck on the road, Louise. The book is super-duper damn good and I hope it flies off shelves!

  6. Louise Ure

    Hi JD and Shaz,

    I’ve seen video clips of Beever as he’s drawing, and still don’t understand how he plots and plans the scale and position that will give him the 3D effect. It’s more than mathmatics — he’s got a third eye, I suspect.

    Which is what I wish I had right now for my current WIP.

    But today, I’m just going to enjoy the arrival of The Fault Tree, and not yammer and whine about anything.

  7. Naomi

    First of all, congrats on THE FAULT TREE!!!

    What trips me out is the length of the foot and leg of the swimmer in the last chalk drawing. Totally absurd from one angle–totally necessary from another. There’s definitely a connection to amateur sleuth plots, which, seen in the harsh light of day, can be pretty harebrained. But carefully calibrated in our fictional world, it makes perfect sense.

    Back to your book, a beautiful cover. Will attract book club readers, too.

  8. JT Ellison

    Brilliant correlation, Louise! Just what I needed today, a push toward the third eye. Wonderful.

    Congratulations on THE FAULT TREE!!!! I can’t wait to read it.xoxo

  9. Louise Ure

    Only our cher Monsieur S. Claus would have the wherewithal to go buy ten copies of anything. But then again, he’s got all those bags to fill. Bless you, dear man.

    Hi JT. Here’s to a little anamorphosis in all of our work.

  10. Tom

    Very perceptive, to find the comparisons here – and very challenging to work either in the chalk or the word, and meet these standards.

    I’ll be sitting in a boring staff meeting for the next several hours, thinking about anamorphosis and The Distorted View.

    Meanwhile – Congratulations on FAULT TREE Day, Louise, and best wishes; I’m surely looking forward to it! Hope the road is kind, this trip.

  11. Tammy Cravit

    What fabulous art work – thanks for sharing it. It’s amazing what a change in perspective can do. And congratulations on FAULT TREE day. It’s a fabulous book, and I hope it flies off the shelves!

  12. Fran

    I have to echo the sentiments of everyone else – it’s a stunning analogy and a fantastic book!

    We’re so excited about seeing you and Cornelia next month! It’s going to be GREAT fun!

  13. Louise Ure

    Tom, anamorphosis is a perfectly fine daydream topic in staff meetings. As is alien life forms, dinner menus and past sexual exploits.

    Tammy, thank you again for all the kind words about The Fault Tree that you’ve put out there.

  14. Louise Ure

    Yeah, Fran, February 2 in Seattle with the San Francisco Party Girls. Does it get any better than that?

    And Santa, who are you to talk about willing suspension of disbelief. Aren’t you the one who’s been conning little kids for centuries?


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