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While a killer recreates grisly scenes from the pages of Edgar Allen Poe in 1920s New York, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is haunted by Poe's ghost, and Harry Houdini falls in love with a beautiful clairvoyant
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A carefully researched thriller that provides many fascinating details about celebrities of the Jazz Age but fails miserably and completely to provide any suspense. The novel has three protagonists: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the British creator of Sherlock Holmes, who is on a US tour to promote the spiritualist practices in which he ardently believes; Harry Houdini, the masterful escape artist, magician, and debunker of mediums; and Mrs. Opal Fletcher, a.k.a. Isis, a wealthy widow and clairvoyant to the elite. Doyle and Houdini are great friends and together resolve to find the serial murderer who patterns his killings on the grisliest death described in the fiction of Edgar Allan Poe. But Hjortsberg is not interested in spinning a good detective yarn. He hardly ever shows the pair sleuthing, and when he does, their efforts seem elementary and uninspired. Even Poe's ghost, who appears to Doyle regularly, can't get the men out of their easy chairs and into some serious action--physical or mental. It doesn't help that the author can't decide who the real hero of the story is; both men seem equally inept, while the murderer is determined, methodical, and obvious to the reader from the start. Houdini's love affair with Isis starts off titillatingly (she uses an ivory dildo filled with warm milk to bring him to a heightened, prolonged orgasm) but withers almost immediately, since the author denies him any sense of involvement with the woman or their child. All the characters wander through this fact-filled, name-dropping plot in a stupor, as if they--like the killer's victims--had chloroformed bags pulled over their heads. Hjortsberg is the author of seven previous novels (Falling Angel, 1978, etc.) and a number of screenplays. Practice does not always make perfect. (First printing of 75,000; $65,000 ad/promo) -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.From Booklist:
Hjortsberg is best known as the author of Falling Angel (1978), a hard-boiled crime novel (with a touch of the supernatural) set just after World War II. This time Hjortsberg steps back a generation to the 1920s and New York City. A series of killings--connected only in that each bears a similarity to a Poe tale--takes place in the tenements of Hell's Kitchen. The killer's ultimate target may be renowned magician Harry Houdini. Through a mutual friend--spiritualist Opal Fletcher--Houdini and noted author Arthur Conan Doyle form an uneasy alliance to solve the crimes. Doyle is visited by the spirit of Poe, who doesn't conform at all to the brand of spiritualism Doyle espouses. Houdini himself spends his spare time debunking phony mediums and spiritualists. Is the killer jealous of Houdini? Is there truly an otherworldly element to the killings? Houdini's knowledge of magic and illusion combines with Doyle's Holmesian logic to bring the case to a close. Although the period details are right and the Doyle-Houdini partnership is cleverly developed, the conclusion is curiously flat. Still, this is an entertaining historical mystery and will please the many fans of the genre. Wes Lukowsky
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Book Description St Martins Pr, 1996. Paperback. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P110312956959
Book Description St Martins Pr, 1996. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0312956959
Book Description Condition: New. New. Seller Inventory # STRM-0312956959
Book Description St Martins Mass Market Paper, 1996. Paperback. Condition: New. Ships with Tracking Number! INTERNATIONAL WORLDWIDE Shipping available. Buy with confidence, excellent customer service!. Seller Inventory # 0312956959n