I recently turned thirty-ahem years old and Mrs Stewart – who says I am nightmare to buy for – bought me this book by Daniel Stashower. The author is a well known name in Sherlock Holmes circles for his book The Ectoplasmic Man and he has also edited a successful Holmes anthology, as well as writing about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle at great length.
For those who are not aware, ACD was a very close friend of Harry Houdini for a while, both sharing a mutual obsession with the occult and the idea that it was possible to speak to people from beyond the grave. By bringing Houdini to life, and as a character with a real obsession with the stories of Sherlock Holmes, Stashower creates an intriguing lead for his book The Dime Museum Murders.
The plot is the classic locked room mystery. New York’s leading toy baron, Branford Wintour, is found dead in his room and the suspect is a toy. Houdini is brought into the case due his expertise in the industry. Thereafter, a trail of crime, murders and strange goings on bring Houdini and his brother Dash, back to the forefront of the case.
Dash narrates the story in a very matter-of-factly way, avoiding the narrative flourishes of Watson, and as such is actually an enjoyable narrator. He makes no attempt to hide the arrogance of his brother or the fact that Harry’s confidence is sometimes ill-conceived. Nonetheless, he stills shows his love and reverence for his brother’s talents, if not his personality.
Houdini for his part is in the early throes of his career, struggling in a backstreet NYC show, and frustrated his obvious talents haven’t yet found their audience.
Stashower is a talented writer and an absolute acolyte of the ACD Holmes canon, and he brings that to the fore here. This is an excellent book, really well laid out and in Houdini he adds a twist to the man’s history and may well have a few books to come in the guise of Houdini the Detective and not just Houdini the Great.