cover image The Illusionist’s Apprentice

The Illusionist’s Apprentice

Kristy Cambron. Thomas Nelson, $15.99 trade paper (357p) ISBN 978-0-7180-4150-2

Cambron (Butterfly and the Violin) brilliantly weaves a tale of intrigue and history, using Houdini’s disdain for debates about magic vs. illusion as her premise. Stapleton, a vaudeville performer, debunked by Houdini as a fraud several years earlier, decides to restore his reputation by publicly bringing a man back to life 20 years after the man’s death. The performance, which takes place in the months after Houdini’s own death, is attended by Jenny “Wren” Lockhart, Houdini’s trusted apprentice and protégé. Stapleton summons the man to rise from the coffin, but shortly after he rises, before he is able to speak, the man promptly keels over dead—again. In the background watching this incident stand FBI agent Elliott Matthews and the wealthy widow Amber Dover, a colorful character who married into society but comes from a vaudeville background. Suspicious of both Wren and Amber, Elliott’s instincts lead him to investigate their potential involvement in the bizarre resurrection and potential murder. Wren unwittingly becomes entwined with FBI agent Elliot, initially to solve the case of what exactly happened to the “dead” man but eventually to pursue her budding affection for Elliot. Cambron’s lithe prose pulls together past and present and her attention to historical detail grounds the narrative to the last breathtaking moments. (Mar.)