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An exceptional review by Martha Engber

Book Review: "Houdini's Last Handcuffs"

by Charlie and Cheryl Young

HOUDINI'S LAST HANDCUFFS is a masterful ghost story for adults! Rather than terrify, however, this mystical journey is one of joy, wonder and the magic of childhood.

Drawing on their real youth in a rambling, book-filled New York City apartment, the writing team of Charlie Young and his sister, Cheryl, mix the facts of their actual magic-loving father, who once met Harry Houdini, with the fantasy of summoning back the master magician and escape artist of the early twentieth century. Their dad, Morris N. Young, really did coauthor the 1953 book HOUDINI'S FABULOUS MAGIC (reissued by Vine Leaves Press in 2023) and the magician really did live in a nearby townhouse.

In this novel, the magician materializes on Halloween in 1958 before the youthful eyes of Cheryl and Charlie and their good friend, David, when they attempt to summon Houdini’s spirit. The netherworld apparition explains his theory about why he’s returned: the kids must help him fulfill a last task, a trick of tricks, an epic psychic phenomenon.

The authors do a terrific job of combining key elements, like their eccentric youth among the famous, theatrical entertainers and magicians who came to visit their parents. They include the strange fact of Houdini’s request upon his deathbed that his wife, Bess, hold a seance each year in an attempt to reach him “on the other side.” Lastly, the book rest on everyone’s childhood dream of being called upon to solve a mystery that’s beyond the imagination of adults.

Mixing fantasy with fact to create a spooky, clever mystery for adults is no small trick, but one these authors conjure with panache.

You can also find this review on Goodreads.


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