Mrs. Houdini

Atria. Mar. 2016. 320p. ISBN 9781501110900. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781501110924. F
[DEBUT] First-time novelist Kelly pays homage to a colorful couple in this tale of Harry and Bess Houdini. It's a sweltering day in June 1894 when entertainers Bess Rahner and Harry Houdini have their first date. Within days, they're married and have embarked upon the adventurous lives they lead as illusionists and performers. For years Bess is a devoted wife; she tours and performs with Harry and remains by his side no matter the circumstances. After Harry's untimely death in 1926, she doggedly searches for him in the afterlife through a series of very public séances.
VERDICT While Kelly clearly has great fondness for her subjects, there are some missteps here. Because the pair meet and marry within the span of a few pages, it can be difficult to understand their devotion to each other. The two stories lack balance, so Bess's search for the man she loves after his death feels tacked on. Despite this, the author has a deft hand in setting a scene and has picked fascinating subjects, things that bode well for future efforts. [See Prepub Alert, 9/28/15.]
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