Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini team up to search for a literary-minded killer
It is 1923 and a beautiful young woman has just been found outside a tenement, bones crushed, head ripped from her shoulders. A few stories above, her squalid apartment has been ransacked, and twenty-dollar gold pieces litter the floor. The window frame is smashed. She seems to have been hurled from the building by a beast of impossible strength, and the only witness claims to have seen a long-armed ape fleeing the scene. The police are baffled, but one reporter recognizes the author of the bloody crime: the long-dead Edgar Allan Poe. A psychopath is haunting New York City, imitating the murders that made Poe’s stories so famous. To Harry Houdini and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the killing spree is of purely academic interest. But when Poe’s ghost appears in Doyle’s hotel room, the writer and the magician begin to suspect that the murders may hold a clue to understanding death itself. This ebook features an illustrated biography of William Hjortsberg including rare photos from the author’s personal collection.
Set in 1923 in New York City, this droll and captivating fantasy-part gothic mystery, part Who's Who of the Jazz Age, part Perils of Pauline-reads like a collaboration between Mary Roberts Rinehart and Dorothy Parker. Fancifully peopled with the ghost of Edgar Allen Poe, famous personages (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Harry Houdini, Damon Runyon) and a supporting cast of thousands, the action turns merrily around the Victorian obsession with spiritualism and its vestigial carryover into the Flapper Era. The narrative involves a series of Ripperlike murders that recreate the macabre stories of Poe. Touring the U.S. as advocates of spiritualism, Sir Arthur and Lady Jean Doyle are reunited with Harry and Bess Houdini, friends since the magician's 1920 tour of Great Britain, where he indulged his passion for debunking spirit mediums. Though both Conan Doyle and Houdini are drawn against their wills into the furor created by the bizarre killings, and though both wind up being stalked by the killer, they find their warm if oddly antipathetic camaraderie strained when Houdini ridicules a private seance given him by Lady Jean. Meanwhile, atop the list of suspects stands the enigmatic Isis, a sexy clairvoyant who also has suffered at the hands of the cavalier Houdini. Hjortsberg keeps matters moving briskly throughout this entertaining thriller, which, with its stellar characters and outlandish plot, could turn out to be his most popular novel since Falling Angel.