Patrik Henry Bass of Essence Magazine reviews “Mrs. Houdini,” by debut novelist Victoria Kelly, in NY1’s The Book Reader.

Do you believe in magic?

That is the piercing question that threads throughout the pages of “Mrs. Houdini.”

Debut novelist Victoria Kelly mines literary gold as she combs through every stitch of the life of the woman married to the world’s greatest illusionist.

Born Wilhelmina Beatrice Rahner in late 19th century Brooklyn, she was known by Harry’s followers as “Bess,” his loyal stage assistant. When we meet her in the captivating pages of this complex story, she is shattered at the surprising loss of her husband at just 52.

Besides leaving behind massive debt, Mr. Houdini also leaves behind clues and codes that he promises, when cracked, will speak with her from beyond the grave. 

After being led on one wild goose chase after another, the increasingly distraught Bess is on the verge of becoming a non-believer in her husband’s craft and his love. That is until she stumbles across Atlantic City photographer Charles Radley, who immortalized her beloved Harry in an image -- and not just in any black-and-white photograph, but in one filled with the codes Harry told Bess that would lead her to after his death.

As the plot thickens, Kelly confidently peels back layers of Bess, revealing a fiercely intelligent and independent woman trying to heal spiritual, emotional, and metaphysical wounds. Had the man who made an elephant disappear before hundreds of people pulled a similar trick on her and with her heart no less? Or, is love the deepest mystery and biggest illusion of them all?

We will not know until we take a leap of faith. And I heartily suggest you do so with “Mrs. Houdini.” It is a voyage where every second and word counts.