Nicholson, Simon. The Magician's Fire (Young Houdini #1)
October 7th 2014 by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
E ARC from Netgalley.com
Young Harry Houdini, an immigrant to New York City from Hungary who makes his meager living shining shoes, tries his hand at a variety of magic and escape acts with the help of his friends, the wealthy but unsupervised Artie and the musician from New Orleans Billie. When an older magician, Herbie, looks to be ill and then disappears from his room in the theater where he works, Harry and his friends investigate. Suspicioun first falls on the Bulgarian magician Zell, but when it turns out that Zell is one of Herbie's friends, the trio of friends must use all of the tricks at their disposal to identify and then thwart the real kidnappers. When they are eventually triumphant, they are approached by the Order of the White Crow, and their adventure is just beginning.
Strengths: Lots of good descriptions of magic acts and lots of daring escapes from a variety of harrowing situations, combined with a decent mystery set in late 1800s New York City. Houdini is an enduring historical figure who will appeal to a wide range of readers.
Weaknesses: The mystery was a bit weak-- very simple and linear, and I saw it coming a mile away. This might not bother the target demographic, but I expected something as complicated and mysterious as Houdini himself. I also found it hard to believe that a struggling street child would have befriended a wealthy boy, but stranger things have happened.