It's 1921, and Sir Robert Purleigh is hosting a weekend party at the family estate in Devon. The guests include writer Arthur Conan Doyle, in thrall to spiritualism; renowned medium Madame Sosostris; psychoanalyst Dr. Erik Auerbach; Lady Alice Purleigh's cousin Marjorie Allardyce and her paid companion, Jane Turner. Famed American escape artist Harry Houdini is also a guest, accompanied by Phil Beaumont, a Pinkerton detective guarding the Great Man (as Phil always refers to him) from the threats of rival magician Chin Soo. The high point of the weekend is to be a sÇance (Houdini has vowed to unmask Sosostris as a trickster), but there's plenty of excitement before that happens. Jane Turner runs screaming from her room the first night, swearing she's seen the ghost of family forebear Lord Reginald. The next day a rifle shot narrowly misses a member of a group gathered outdoors, but, most disturbing of all, Lord Purleigh's semiparalyzed father, the Earl of Axminster, kills himself in his locked suite with a gun taken, no one knows how, from a hall cabinet. There's more, much more, all of it chronicled by Jane in letters to her friend Evy, and a race ensues between Scotland Yard's Shakespeare-quoting Inspector Marsh and Houdini to solve the case. The solution's as bizarre as the buildup, but no matter. Style is everything here, as the author (The Hanged Man, 1993, etc.) leisurely spins humor, history, showbiz, sex, and detection into a thoroughly civilized, thoroughly pleasurable entertainment.