Harry Houdini Mysteries: The Dime Museum Murders Paperback – Feb 7 2012
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"A well plotted and intelligent yarn, structured like an old fashioned serial with its myriad cliffhangers and revelations." - Shadowlocked
"Enough intrigue, banter and action to keep you reading and due to some very thorough research, give you a realistic look at New York in this time period, an insight into Houdini’s home-life and early career." - Bad Haven
"Great mysteries." - 8 Days A Geek
About the Author
Daniel Stashower is a novelist and magician. His works include: the Edgar Award-winning Teller of Tales: The Life of Arthur Conan Doyle, Elephants in the Distance, The Beautiful Cigar Girl, The Ghosts of Baker Street, and the Sherlock Holmes novel, The Seventh Bullet.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Harry trained his younger brother Dash to be a magician, almost 10 years after the story is set. I could live with that but instead of working as a magician, Hardeen/ Dash is hanging around Harry as sort of a manager. At the same time, the author makes it very clear that Harry and his wife couldn't possibly afford to hire any one, they're barely surviving even though they're living at his mother's apartment. Hardeen somehow can afford his own place.
It starts with a tedious prologue with an 84 year Dash preparing in his boardinghouse room to talk to reporters on the anniversary of Houdini's death. The story is his reminisce. By the time Dash was 84 he had been dead for 15 years. He was a successful magician with a house and a wife. He took a break for some routine surgery that went wrong and he died. Its so unnecessary, he could extend Dash's life just one year and have it be the 20th anniversary of Houdini's death.
This one way it shows that the book was originally conceived and at least partly written with a detective of the author's own creation. He just renamed him Hardeen and did a hatchet job on Harry. Houdini is shown as a delusional egomaniac with no sense. At first he thinks he's Sherlock Holmes and keeps quoting him. He constantly makes grand announcements that he knows who did it but of course is wrong.
There are a few Houdini type stunts stuck in the story that don't fit the caricature described by Stashower and although describing the brothers as tough guys who grew up on the streets (basically true) Harry is often naive and lacks common sense.
Hardeen is too dull to carry the story.
Author Daniel Stashower’s pedigree as both a historian and magician gives him an advantage over most novelists who attempt a period piece, and particularly one about Houdini. While there are a few moments here and there where he plays a bit fast and loose with his facts, such as stating in the frame-story that Theo is 84 in 1954, a chronological impossibility in view of the fact that the real Theo died in 1945 at age 69, or referring to him as “Hardeen,” a title that was not conferred to him by Houdini until 1901, etc., overall, his knowledge and understanding of life in that era is well expressed. He does a fabulous job capturing the feeling of turn-of-the-century America with his colorful descriptions, vibrant characters, and, what impressed me most of all, his period-appropriate dialogue, a welcome change from the usual anachronistic use of 21st century slang.
As Stashower’s other books have shown, he is clearly an admirer of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and in “The Dime Museum Murders” this admiration comes to full flower. The plotting and pacing are reminiscent of the latter’s work, cozy and old-fashioned (in a good way) with humor and derring-do outnumbering the grim and gory. Even between the respective detecting teams there are obvious similarities, even down to the first-person reminisce by Theo/Dr. Watson in the frame story. While I don’t totally agree with his portrayal of Harry as a brash, smarty-pants 100% uber-egomaniac, an attribute I think takes away some of the dimensionality of his character, it nevertheless helps to further the Harry/Sherlock angle and makes him a great foil for the slower but more thoughtful Theo. Regardless, I praise Stashower for making his characters well-drawn from the outset, with distinct voices and enough quirks and foibles to make them worth following into the story, something that isn't often found in mystery novels, where the plot takes precedence over the people involved.
Having read all three entries in the series, I have to say this one is probably my favorite, though they're all a little different but complement each other well. Great literature they're not, but if you're looking for an entertaining murder-mystery with engaging characters to occupy a few hour's time, "The Dime Museum Murders" is a great choice. I also recommend Stashower's "Sherlock Holmes: The Ectoplasmic Man" which features an older, more mature Houdini and more of his wife Bess, solving mysteries alongside the great detective himself.
Daniel Stashower does a good job bringing Harry Houdini to life and obviously has done a lot of research about him--his arrogance mainly as he is determined to advertise himself as the Great Houdini even though his early magical abilities are not quite perfected. He is now struggling in a dime museum which is just that---patrons pay a dime to see many attractions like an armless lady and other sites. Harry and Dash rely on other jobs to keep them going. There is the usual lock picking, being suspended in the air, and Harry's ability to spot tricksters. Dash of the two displays logic while Harry is quick to jump to conclusions. They make quite a pair, and the ending of this mystery is quite a surprise!