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Irish immigrant and private detective Molly Murphy is thrilled to have a ticket to see world-famous illusionist Harry Houdini. But before he can even take the stage, the opening act goes horribly wrong - and the sensational Signor Scarpelli's lovely assistant is sawed in half. In the aftermath, Scarpelli accuses Houdini of tampering with his equipment. Who else but the so-called Handcuff King could have got a hold of his trunk of tricks, which he keeps under lock and key?
And it seems the maestro Scarpelli's not the only one critical of Houdini. Now that he's raised the stakes to such a perilous level, lesser acts are being put out of business. With everyone on edge, Houdini's wife hires Molly to watch his back. But how can she protect a man who literally risks his life every night? Now it's up to Molly to keep an eye on Houdini and find out whether these masters of illusion are simply up to their tricks - or if there truly is something much more treacherous going on...
'Delightful... as ever, Bowen does a splendid job of capturing the flavour of early twentieth-century New York and bringing to life its warm and human inhabitants.' Publishers Weekly
'Molly grows ever more engaging against a vibrant background of New York's dark side at the turn of the century.' Kirkus Reviews
Set in New York City in 1903, Bowen's winning ninth Molly Murphy mystery (after 2009's In a Gilded Cage) opens with a magic show at Miner's Theatre on the Bowery, attended by Molly and her fianc , police captain Daniel Sullivan, who wants her to give up her unconventional profession of private investigator. When the sawing-a-lady-in-half trick goes fatally wrong, this "horrible accident" brings the evening's entertainment to an early end, preventing Molly and Daniel from seeing the show's main attraction, Harry Houdini. After both Signor Scarpelli, the magician whose stage equipment was apparently sabotaged, and his female assistant's corpse disappear, Houdini's wife, Bess, who worries an enemy of her husband is out to get him, asks Molly for help. Later, an act the handcuff king attempts almost ends in another death, confirming Bess's fears. The gutsy Molly, who's no prim Edwardian miss, will appeal to fans of contemporary female detectives.