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The Dime Museum Murders
Harry Houdini Mysteries, No 1
Daniel Stashower

Titan Books
February 7, 2012 / 978-0857682840
Historical Mystery: 1897 New York City

Reviewed by Beth E. McKenzie

Dash Hardeen, the brother of The Great Houdini, is an old man who, despite being a decent magician in his own right, is most sought after in his maturity because of this relationship. On the anniversary of Houdini's death each year Hardeen can expect a visit from one or more reporters and photographers anxious to hear another tale of the Master's exploits. Hardeen obliges, "remembering" events from their youth and early days onstage.

While the brothers were employed at a dime museum in New York City they were summoned by the police to the home of Mr. Branford Wintour, toy manufacturer and collector. When Mr. Wintour failed to appear for dinner and knocking at his study door did not rouse him, a locksmith was called and the magnate found dead at his desk next to a rare automaton from the collection of the 19th-century French clockmaker and magician Robert-Houdin (no relation). Did a magic trick kill Wintour or are other nefarious machinations at work?

An ardent fan of another Master, what follows is deduction in a psuedo-Holmesian style by Houdini (who is a pratt) to solve the locked-door mystery. He insults the police by worrying about muddy boots trampling the evidence. He quotes lines from the canon and pretty much drives everybody crazy, but in the end he does solve the mystery through a distinctly personal methodology.

Step up ladies and gents! Feast your eyes on four pearls for the price of one! First, the impossible locked-door mystery story is solid; how does the murder occur if you can't tranverse the portal? Second, if you are interested in turn-of-the-century New York City there are many interesting details concerning entertainments, including those of a less salubrious nature. Third, there are a considerable number of treats for the fan of side shows, magicians and escapologists. Finally, if you love a good Holmesian satire you will smile all the way through to the end.

The Floating Lady Murders, No 2

Reviewed 2012