The Seance by Iain Lawrence
Finished: July 12, 2008
First Published: July 8, 2008
Genre: YA, historical fiction, mystery
Reason for Reading: I received a Review Copy from Random House Canada. Qualifies for the Canadian Challenge.
At five minutes to midnight, a stranger arrived for the seance.
Comments: It is 1926 and Scooter King is his mother's helper. Madam King is a spiritualist who holds fake seances and Scooter is the one who pulls all the strings behind the scenes. One night he follows a mysterious stranger and ends up at the theatre where Harry Houdini will soon be performing. As Scooter enters the theatre, unnoticed, he enters the room where Houdini's Torture Tank will be on public display the next day, and he discovers a dead body hanging in the chamber. Houdini is out to prove that all spiritualists are fakes but Scooter and he must join forces to find out not only who killed this man but who is trying to kill them both.
Iain Lawrence writes wonderful books and each book is significantly different than the others. The historical setting of 1926 American city-life is vibrant and even more so as we enter the world of fake spiritualists of the time and backstage theatre life. His characters even speak the slang of the day adding to the authenticity. The murder mystery is an added bonus that will probably keep kids guessing, though I, an adult, did see where the plot was going fairly on. Houdini certainly was an entertaining character and those who are familiar with his life will appreciate the research the author must have done to be true to character.
I noticed several Holmesian 'nods' in the book, names and such, so I wondered if Arthur Conan Doyle was going to appear in the story somewhere. He did not; but the author's afterward explains how this story came to be and the real history behind it along with the connection between Doyle and Houdini. A really fun historical romp that I enjoyed.