From School Library Journal
Grade 5-7–Lalicki, author of Spellbinder: The Life of Harry Houdini
(Holiday House, 2000), mines his vast knowledge of the magician for this first novel in the series. In the summer of 1911 in New York City, 13-year-old Nathaniel G. Makeworthy Fuller is working as a clerk's assistant in a Fifth Avenue hat store. He and his widowed mother live with his wealthy great-aunt. After Houdini buys a hat, leaving his calling card but no money, Nate is sent to the escape artist's home to present the bill. Houdini's wife befriends him, and he comes to trust her and her husband enough to share his concerns about the late-night séances that his aunt's new friend, David Douglas Trane, holds at her house. Working together, Houdini and Nate uncover Trane's scheme to convince Aunt Alice, through bogus exchanges with her late husband, to make him the beneficiary of her sizable estate. He is exposed, but not before Nate is knocked unconscious, kidnapped, and nearly murdered, and his mother drugged. Lalicki not only includes lots of information about Houdini, but also brings the period to life with many historical references. The author is a scrupulous researcher, and while the history integrated into the novel is interesting, at times it impedes the plot. However, readers who are fascinated by Houdini as well as those who enjoy a combination of mystery, adventure, and historical fiction, with a hefty dose of melodrama, will eagerly await the next installment.–Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME
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Twelve-year-old Nathaniel Fuller has been raised in fastidious luxury in a household that includes his elderly great-aunt, his widowed mother, and a nearly invisible housekeeper. Growing up in Manhattan in 1911, he's surrounded by miraculous new inventions such as telephones and automobiles, as well as the grim realities of sweatshops and class conflicts. What stirs Nate's curiosity most, however, are the strange voices he hears every night in the family parlor. The man who visits most often is definitely unsavory. During the course of his job at a gentlemen's hat store, Nate meets Harry Houdini. They quickly become friends, and Houdini develops his own theories about the suspicious gentleman caller. The action is nonstop, and even a flurry of enormous coincidences won't spoil enthusiasm for this entertaining story. Lalicki puts his extensive knowledge of Houdini into creating an engaging, credible character that pairs well with likable Nate. This is a promising start to the Houdini & Nate Mystery series. Francisca GoldsmithCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved