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

Amazon | Amazon Kindle

First published 1994
File size: 548 KB (app 300 pages)

Book source: For review

This catches me up on one of my reviews.


  • what a bummer. This had all the earmarks of something I would love to read. I really enjoy mysteries that have historical names in them… bummer.

    I have to tell you ..trying to figure out how to get to this review was more than a mystery and twice I left this sight but came back because I knew it had to be somewhere. I thought I had it when I clicked on the “book” link but when it came up the same as home page I was disheartened. I have never been to a website that I had to click more than one link to read a review. … just mentioning it because since I nearly gave up I am sure others HAVE given up.

    • Carol

      Thanks so much for the feedback, and I’m sorry for the trouble it caused you. Thnkas for clicking again. But I’m not really sure what the “book” link you clicked on originally was. From the homepage, if you click on either the picture or the post title it takes you straight to the review, I think.

      Anyone else having troubles like deslily mentioned? Please let me know so I can get it straightened out.

  • Ellen Verni

    This contains a spoiler, so don’t read this comment if you’re reading the book. I read the last few chapters over a few times and still can’t figure out what was in the wicker basket that Houdini gave to Doyle on the ship to throw overboard. Help!

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