The Adventure of the Ectoplasmic Man by Daniel Stashower
When Harry Houdini is framed and jailed for espionage, Sherlock Holmes vows to clear his name, with the two joining forces to take on blackmailers who have targeted the Prince of Wales.
It’s a case that requires all of their skills — both mental and physical. Can the daring duo solve what people are calling “The Crime of the Century”? (via Goodreads)
Originally released in 1985 as a Sherlock Holmes/Houdini mashup, The Adventure of the Ectoplasmic Man seems to have a second life as part of Titan Books’ The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes series. Daniel Stashower has also written three other Houdini mysteries, but these seem to be set during the magician’s early years, pre-1900. I haven’t read them, though I might.
Sherlock Holmes is by far my favorite literary detective and Houdini is, well, my twentieth favorite magician. This book should be some sort of alley of mine, right?
The story is really a Houdini showcase. There’s an extended scene of Harry Houdini escaping from being bound to a chair that is physical and tense. There are also many other nods to Houdinia: water torture cells, milk cans, airplane shenanigans, and lots and lots of handcuffs. The characterization of Holmes was pretty good too, though Holmes takes a backseat to Watson and Houdini’s relationship. Indeed, Stashower posits that Houdini has physical acuity equal to Holmes’ mental attributes.
Plot-wise, the mystery seemed overly ornate to me. Lestrade’s purpose is to be annoyingly incorrect, Watson is relied upon to be incompetent, and there are a few goose chases that are tedious. It felt padded out. The solution of the mystery was a bit of a cheat with a snippet of information held back until the end.
Not a great mystery, but not bad for this sort of famous person/famous character crossover.
Publisher: William Morrow & Company
Publication date: 1985
Why did I choose to read this book? Another magician-involved mystery.