Wednesday, March 31, 2010



First it was Ernest Hemingway, and now it is Houdini.  

I've been reading crime novels and mystery stories about famous people lately. 

Set in New York City in 1903, Rhys Brown's The Last Illusion is a cozy with an interesting initial murder.  The act before Houdini's goes terribly wrong.  The magician literally saws a woman in half in front of a packed house.

From there, private detective Molly Murphy tries to solve how and why the murder happened. 

As with many historical cozies, women's rights are a big issue.  Molly is engaged to police captain Daniel Sullivan.  Sullivan cannot visualize his wife being anything but a traditional housewife. He struggles with a fiancée who is, for 1903, a liberated woman.

Sullivan himself is so involved in trying to stop the flood of counterfeit money in New York City and the area around that he has little time to worry about the murder of an unimportant magician's assistant.

Even when Houdini's wife Bess herself is almost killed, Sullivan still has what he considers more important things to do.

An interesting sidelight--This story has a fictional explanation of how one of Houdini's most famous illusions came about--Houdini being handcuffed, locked in a trunk, thrown in the river, then escaping.

This book is fast, interesting reading.  The gist of the solution was apparent fairly early in the book, but its details weren't.

If you enjoy historical cozies, here's one you might try.   


Karen Russell said...

Just checked this one out from the library the other day -- can't wait to read it! Thanks for the review.

Joe Barone said...

You're welcome!