I so wanted to love Nevermore by William Hjortsberg. It’s a historical mystery starring Harry Houdini, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Edgar Allan Poe’s ghost. A killer is loose in New York, basing his murders on Poe’s works, and true-life friends Doyle and Houdini must work together to outwit the killer before they become victims themselves. Sounds fabulous, doesn’t it?
I found the mystery itself pretty interesting. The idea of someone recreating Poe’s decidely disturbing stories is fascinating in and of itself. I even liked the tension between Doyle’s belief in a spiritual world and Houdini’s need to expose mediums as frauds. It was all the sub-plots I could have done without.
Actually, it was just one sub-plot that bothered me. Houdini in this novel is pretty arrogant, which is fine. I don’t actually know much about Houdini, aside from that he was an amazing escape artist, but how he was portrayed here didn’t really make me want to learn more about him. He just didn’t pull of the “hero” bit well. And then he meets Opal Crosby Fletcher, a character I wish Hjortsberg would have just left out. She’s stunningly beautiful and staggeringly wealthy young widow who also seems to be a true psychic. She’s also a bit nutty. She claims to be the reincarnation of the goddess Isis, and believes Houdini to be the reincarnation of the god Osiris, Isis’ husband. She takes an unnerving interest in him, stalking him, and eventually seducing him in a rather odd sex scene. Honestly, I didn’t get the whole point of this sideline. I never thought she was a legitimate suspect.
Poe’s ghost was rather pointless to. He didn’t help solve the mysteries. Really he did little more than allow Doyle to question his views on the afterlife, but he didn’t bother me as much as Isis did.
I did however really like how Hjortsberg kept referring to Doyle as the knight. It just tickled me.
Overall, Nevermore was a mishmash of drama, mystery, and fatasy that never really pulled together for me. The only saving grace was that I do love historical figures as characters, especially in mysteries. Otherwise, I probably would have given up on the book rather than finishing it.
2 out of 5 stars
Category: Mystery – Historical
First published 1994
File size: 548 KB (app 300 pages)
Book source: For review
This catches me up on one of my reviews.