The Harry Houdini Mysteries: The Dime Museum Murders by Daniel Stashower
|The Harry Houdini Mysteries: The Dime Museum Murders by Daniel Stashower|
|Category: Crime (Historical)|
|Reviewer: Linda Lawlor|
|Summary: It is 1897, and young Harry Houdini has yet to receive the adulation he feels his talent deserves. But at least the New York police appreciate his gifts: they call him in as a consultant when a local tycoon is murdered by a magic trick.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 242||Date: February 2012|
There are two things you need to know about Stashower's Harry Houdini. Firstly, he is a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes. Secondly, and much more importantly, he is utterly certain of his own ability to do whatever he sets his mind to. Therefore, when he finds himself involved, albeit in a minor way, in a murder, he immediately decides it is up to him to solve the case. It never occurs to him that he might fail, because that is simply not an option for the Great Houdini.
This story is told by his brother Dash, almost three decades after the death of Harry. It is recounted as if to a newspaper reporter, and right from the start we see that in his own way Dash was, and still is, as much of a showman as his more famous sibling. He sits waiting for the photographer to finish setting up his light meter, wondering to himself how he's going to play the interview. Will he present himself as the Wistful Trouper this time? Or maybe his Wily Codger routine would be more fun? And so the reader has been warned: the tale you are about to read has been as carefully practised and polished as one of Houdini's escapology routines.
Dash is fond of his brother, and tolerates his Holmes-like antics with good grace on the whole (although he does suggest at one point early on in the story that it's a pity no one has thought to shove his brother over the Reichenbach Falls). Vain and self-centred Harry may be, and hugely irritating at times, but he is sufficiently young and eager to endear himself to both his family and the reader. Still, as we move through the book, one thing becomes clear: Harry may see himself as the great dilettante detective of his age, but many of the facts and insights which lead the case to its resolution are discovered by the patient, dogged and occasionally exasperated Dash. Of course, Harry is dead, and not around to tell his side of things . . .
The only work Harry is able to get in New York is in a dime museum – a ten-act show of human curiosities which a less kindly age called a freak show. Worse still, he is only allowed three minutes for his performance, so he has to rely on card tricks. Little wonder, then, that he welcomes the distraction, and the opportunity for some free publicity, when Branford Wintour, the tycoon King of Toys, is found dead in his Fifth Avenue mansion.
This book is one of a series of books where Harry Houdini uses his insights (and those of his brother) to solve mysteries, just as his literary hero was wont to do. They are pleasant tales which give intriguing glimpses of New York at the turn of the last century, from the grand mansions of the rich to the seedy underbelly of the theatre, and readers who seek something a little different from the traditional 'cosy' mystery will certainly enjoy them.
Readers who enjoy detective stories set in the past will enjoy The Herring In The Library by L C Tyler (which is also very funny), and Brighton Belle: a Mirabelle Bevan Mystery by Sara Sheridan.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Harry Houdini Mysteries: The Dime Museum Murders by Daniel Stashower at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Harry Houdini Mysteries: The Dime Museum Murders by Daniel Stashower at Amazon.com.
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