"Mrs. Houdini" (Atria), by Victoria Kelly
Set in the first half of the 20th century, Victoria Kelly's debut novel, "Mrs. Houdini," is a marvel that gallops through time and space. Based on the true story of illusionist Harry Houdini and his wife, Bess, it vibrates with plot-driven energy, unforgettable characters and unpredictable twists.
Kelly says she was inspired to write the novel when, on Halloween, the anniversary of Harry Houdini's death, she learned about his widow's attempts to contact his spirit. She then undertook massive research into their lives, work and relationship. What she produces in "Mrs. Houdini" is an engaging portrait of an unexpectedly modern partnership — business and personal.
"Mrs. Houdini" offers a rollicking ride from a Coney Island music hall and a traveling circus in the 1890s to Hollywood and Atlantic City, New Jersey, in the 1920s. It's a ghost story, a love story and a great tale of suspense.
Learning that Kelly is a poet will come as no surprise as readers get swept up in her gorgeous word choices and lyrical prose.
She describes looking out a hotel lobby window at a snowy landscape: "Harry looked, too, searching the emptiness as if waiting for a parade of spirits to march into view, dissolving like icicles into the frozen earth."
Without a single misstep, "Mrs. Houdini" is a pure delight from the first page to the last.