Tue 28 Jun 2011
DANIEL STASHOWER – The Adventure of the Ectoplasmic Man. William Morrow, hardcover, 1985. Penguin, paperback, 1986. Titan Books, trade paperback, 2009.
I’m a sucker for Sherlock Holmes stories written by hands other than Conan Doyle not because I think they’re good, but because I’m always hoping they will be. I had read some good things about this book so with fingers crossed I decided to try it.
Watson, on the death of Houdini, sends Houdini’s widow a manuscript detailing the adventure where Holmes untangled, in 1910, a plot to discredit Houdini, who was performing in London, and blame him for murder and crimes against the state.
The book could be described, I suppose, as a romp rather than an accurate pastiche. Holmes is larger that life, naturally, but his techniques seem a little far-fetched and it was surprising that he knew how to fly a plane. Still it was a light and fast read, and I have to say I quite enjoyed it, without, for a moment, taking it seriously.
Bibliographic Notes: (1) Ectoplasmic Man was nominated for an Edgar (Best First Novel) by the MWA in 1986.
(2) Several years after this book appeared, Daniel Stashower wrote a series of three novels in which Harry Houdini himself was the primary detective:
The Harry Houdini series –
1. The Dime Museum Murders (1999)
2. The Floating Lady Murder (2000)
3. The Houdini Specter (2002)