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The Houdini Girl: A Novel (1998)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375704760, Paperback)Fletcher Brandon, known onstage as Peter Prestige the Prodigious Prestidigitator (and offstage simply as Red), has never met anyone as alive as Rosa Kelly. Yet a year after their mutual seduction one night in an Oxford pub, this beautiful, foul-mouthed, flinty Irishwoman is dead--either a suicide or a murder victim. The magician, summoned from a show in the north of England, finds himself hoping that she has perpetrated an elaborate ruse: "I would've given anything for the coroner's officer to whisk away the sheet with a theatrical flourish to reveal a bare table and for Rosa, in a sequined costume, to emerge, stage left, with beaming radiance."
Though Red had seen Rosa the morning of her death, as long-haired and flamboyant as ever, the body's head is shaved and makeup-free. What's more, further investigation reveals that she had taken her passport and withdrawn a large sum from two accounts. And as Red discovers, his lover had deceived him--a master illusionist--about almost everything: her past, her family, her job. When he realizes that she had done so not out of malice but self-protection, he is determined to find her killer.
The Houdini Girl defies genres. It is a murder mystery in which the victim is offed in the initial pages. It is a tragic love story. It is a tale of double lives and identities--even Rosa's cat has two names. Martyn Bedford's third novel is also a physical and metaphysical exploration of the lure of magic, and of its abuses: one of Rosa's friends wonders, "Why are magicians so obsessed with bondage and penetration?" As the immensely talented Bedford powers through his tale of guilt and innocence (things that he knows are far from mutually exclusive), his flawed hero describes the tricks he and his assistant, the Lovely Kim, work on their audience. From the Zigzag Girl to the Lost Princess, these exploits are breathtakingly woven into the action and themes of the novel, which careens from Oxford to Amsterdam--where his heroine's irreparable past springs into full and sordid life. In the end, The Houdini Girl offers provocative proof of Auden's much-criticized line, "We must love one another or die." --Kerry Fried
(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:38:56 -0400)
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