cover image Piper Houdini: Apprentice of Coney Island

Piper Houdini: Apprentice of Coney Island

Glenn Herdling. Balboa, $12.95 paper (282p) ISBN 978-1-5043-4972-7

Herdling debuts with a jam-packed supernatural adventure set against the backdrop of 1920s New York City. A resourceful, redheaded orphan, 12-year-old Piper Weiss is sent to live with her uncle—Harry Houdini—who is consumed by a campaign to discredit spiritualism and the mediums who he believes prey on the grief stricken and vulnerable. Yet something unearthly is creeping in the periphery, and Piper becomes embroiled in a mystery involving the deaths of Coney Island’s freak show performers; the story also draws in vampires, a hidden dimension (which Piper enters through a magic mirror), and a dash of voodoo. Herdling provides plenty of forward momentum, yet the novel can become overwhelmed by the many supernatural elements and plot diversions, including Piper’s own gathering powers, which only become clear toward the end; readers may need to scramble back through the pages to understand how the elements are interconnected. Regardless, strong central characters, evocative writing, and an atmospheric setting result in a fresh and fun novel. Though labeled as young adult, Piper’s story, set to continue in a sequel, is probably best suited to a middle grade audience. Ages 12–up. (BookLife)