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Mrs. Houdini (Review)

Mrs. Houdini
By Victoria Kelly
320 pages | March 1st 2016 | Atria Books





A captivating debut novel, meticulously researched and beautifully imagined, about the passionate marriage of Harry and Bess Houdini—a love story that defied death itself.

Before escape artist Harry Houdini died, he vowed he would find a way to speak to his beloved wife Bess from beyond the grave using a coded message known only to the two of them. When a widowed Bess begins seeing this code in seemingly impossible places, it becomes clear that Harry has an urgent message to convey. Unlocking the puzzle will set Bess on a course back through the pair’s extraordinary romance, which swept the illusionist and his bride from the beaches of Coney Island, to the palaces of Budapest, to the back lots of Hollywood. When the mystery finally leads Bess to the doorstep of a mysterious young photographer, she realizes that her husband’s magic may have been more than just illusion.

In surprising turns that weave through the uncertain days of the dawn of the twentieth century and continue into the dazzling 1920s, Mrs. Houdini is a thrilling tale that will take you deep into the heart of one of history’s greatest love stories—asking what drives people to believe in something bigger than themselves—even as it reveals the famous magician’s most remarkable feat of all.





I have always been fascinated with Harry Houdini, illusionists and spiritualists of that time are incredible individuals, so advanced and intelligent, often beyond their time. I must confess however I did not know a great deal of his story. What little I had witnessed in various film cameos of the character did not really instill a great deal of knowledge. 

So, I went into this story with very little preconceptions and an open mind. I think that helped. Throughout the pages of this tale, the reader is taken on a journey with Bess Houdini. We see their lives together from when they met, until his death. 

It was one of those books with alternating stories from past to present, we get to see life before and after Harry’s death. This book had all the rights tools, it was haunting, intriguing but something just didn’t click. It could be a personal issue, I have found before that books with alternating points of view (that are not clearly defined) or alternating timelines can confuse me. (I was a good chunk into New Moon before I realized it had switched and Jacob was telling the story sometimes).

The book was clearly well researched! I applaud the author for that. I love a good historical fiction that is accurate to its time. It is a truly magical insight into the man very few truly knew. 

If you love historical fiction with a hint of paranormal intrigue! You should definitely pick up this title!

A big thank you to Simon and Schuster Canada for an ARC of this novel. 






Victoria Kelly received her M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, her B.A. Summa Cum Laude from Harvard University, and her M.Phil. in creative writing from Trinity College Dublin, where she was a US Mitchell Scholar. She is the author of the poetry collection When the Men Go Off to War. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in the anthologies Best American Poetry 2013 and Contemporary American Poetry, as well as Alaska Quarterly Review, Southwest Review, Prairie Schooner, and North American Review. She lives in Virginia with her husband and daughters.

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