THE HOUDINI GIRL by Martyn Bedford


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Following his taut debut, Acts of Revision (1997), with a more maudlin tale of love and loss, Bedford offers a promising yet finally disappointing story of a magician unable to perform the ultimate trick: bringing back to life the woman he adored, then betrayed. On first meeting in an Oxford pub, Red and Rosa click, although they’re too cool to let on. But after he tosses off a crowd-pleasing trick with her assistance, she goes home with him—and moves in the next day. For a year they feel made for each other, but then Rosa steps off a slow-moving train into the path of an express, and in her death reveals herself to be quite different from the cocky Irish girl that Red had thought she was. Rosa’s shoulder bag appears mysteriously in the mail after her death, its contents complete with a wig and someone else’s passport. The police sharpen their interest after a routine inquiry reveals that her father was an IRA terrorist—and that she vanished for a five-year period ending just before she met Red. Too depressed to resume his life as a professional magician, Red himself begins sleuthing, using a couple of Amsterdam phone numbers he found in Rosa’s bag. Calling them brings a swift response: his house is ransacked and he’s beaten, but when the thief is apprehended, his claims place Red under suspicion of having Rosa killed. Now a fugitive, he wangles his own vanishing act to reach Amsterdam and get to the bottom of Rosa’s identity. A trail of addiction, prostitution, and murder eventually brings him back into the arms of the police. This has all the trappings of a satisfying mystery (and a fetching love story). But Red, deceiving everyone and wallowing in self-pity, is too blasÇ a character to pull it off—not even Rosa’s occasional voice from beyond the grave can save him..

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-375-40527-5
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Pantheon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1998


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