It’s Dec. 31, 1926, and Harry Houdini has been dead for two months. Horace Stapleton is looking to step into the role of master illusionist by bringing back to life a man who has supposedly been dead for 20 years. But after the man who seems to come back to life drops dead on stage, FBI Agent Elliot Matthews is determined to solve the case.
Elliot quickly brings in the mysterious and eccentric — and very private — Wren Lockhart, Houdini’s former assistant who is plucky and full of moxie, to help figure out what truly happened with Stapleton’s botched illusion.
As they grow closer and closer during their investigation, Elliot and Wren must learn to tear down their walls, trusting and opening up to each other, revealing their secrets and baggage.
“The Illusionist’s Apprentice” by Kristy Cambron is a fantastic historical fiction novel taking place in the 1920s Jazz Age and Prohibition era. Filled with suspense and action, “The Illusionist’s Apprentice” features both actual, historical characters — like Houdini and references to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle — and fictional characters that could be based on real people — like Wren and Elliot.
Traveling through three different eras in Wren’s life — childhood, her teen years and present day — Cambron’s novel is a tale of intrigue, secrets, guilt, redemption, and overcoming and moving on from the past. It emphasizes the importance of faith (as Wren tells Houdini, “My faith must always be stronger than what my eyes can see”) and reminds us that there has only ever been one man who could claim power over the grave.
A major theme repeatedly delves into the idea that there is always the hope of light, even in the darkest moments. The author’s storyline reminds us again and again that light will always overcome the dark. It also touches on the theme of being a hero, and what it takes to be a hero. As Wren comments, “Our mother used to say that a hero doesn’t always have to slay a dragon to save the day. … Sometimes he just walks through the fire alongside you, and that’s enough.”
Cambron does a fantastic job of keeping the plot fresh and exciting, moving along quickly. She writes in a very descriptive manner, that often paints a lovely picture of the story’s surroundings. An example: “Drizzle cried down the outside of the glass, the ink-black night serving as the backdrop beyond the windows.”
If you love historical fiction, Prohibition and Jazz Age era stories, and all things illusionists, you will love this book.
Five stars out of five.
Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, provided this complimentary copy for my honest, unbiased review.