Mrs. Houdini

Written by Victoria Kelly
Review by Jo Ann Butler

Houdini – we’ve all heard the name, but what do most of us know about him? Ehrich Weiss was born in 1874, and began entertaining the public on the trapeze at the age of nine. He dubs himself Harry Houdini when he begins a sensational career as an escape artist in 1891. Three years later, eighteen-year-old Bess Rahner, a song-and-dance performer at Coney Island, watches Harry and his brother on stage. A day later Bess marries Harry and replaces his brother for the Metamorphosis trick.

A century later, Harry Houdini is famed, but his wife has largely been ignored. Victoria Kelly corrects that oversight by presenting Bess Houdini to lucky readers in her debut novel, Mrs. Houdini. Her husband’s performances are truly death-defying – burial in 6’ of earth, leaping shackled into the East River in winter – while Bess watches in agony to see if he will survive each trick. Harry is determined to make the greatest escape of all: he will send a message to Bess across the void of death. After Harry dies, she waits once more while frauds hold séances. Then Bess begins to see her own signs.

Mrs. Houdini is a dazzling blend of adventure, love, betrayal, and redemption. Houdini’s feats are unimaginable, yet Ms. Kelly vividly imagines them for us. I hope that she will continue to do so for a very long time.