Kristy Cambron. The Illusionist’s Apprentice. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2017.
Sometimes reviewing books comes with its own set of hazards. Publishers release books on their own schedules, which means they are not necessarily evenly distributed throughout the year. At the moment, I’m already reading and writing reviews for upcoming months, while waiting for books to arrive that release this week! Fortunately, Kristy Cambron’s upcoming release arrived several days ago and I enjoyed every moment of this edge-of-your-seat historical mystery.
The Illusionist’s Apprentice follows the story of Wren Lockhart, a former apprentice to Harry Houdini who has made a name for herself on the vaudeville stage. Together, Wren and Houdini successfully discredited magicians and spiritualists who misled the public with the promise of returning lost loved ones from the grave. After Houdini’s death, one disgraced performer dares to regain the stage with the promise of returning a man to life. However, the illusion’s tragic results quickly leads to an investigation by the burgeoning Boston division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The two agents in charge of the case turn to Wren as an expert illusionist capable of determining the truth behind the deadly vaudeville act. However, the FBI’s investigation leads the agents to discover the true depth of illusionists’ secrets, especially those held by Wren to separate her glamorous stage life from the truth of her past.
Interweaving scenes from Wren’s past and present life, The Illusionist’s Apprentice will captivate readers with fascinating details of the Jazz Age and vaudeville life. Ms. Cambron brings a rich vibrancy to her characters, while stepping into the arena of Christian suspense and mystery in her most recent novel.
Overall, I really enjoyed reading The Illusionist’s Apprentice! Ms. Cambron continues to show remarkable growth in her writing from novel to novel, with The Illusionist’s Apprentice placing itself firmly at the forefront of her work. The book offers a riveting depiction of American vaudeville life during the early part of the twentieth century, particularly in light of Harry Houdini and his fellow illusionists’ work capturing the public’s imagination through live performances. While Houdini makes few actual appearances in the novel, the story reflects his influence on his chosen profession as a mentor and trendsetter. Ms. Cambron’s choice to focus on Houdini’s work in debunking spiritualism and séance activity was particularly fascinating, especially when set against the public’s grief from the massive losses of World War I and the Spanish Flu. At its heart, The Illusionist’s Apprentice ultimately focuses on the balance of truth and illusion in Wren’s life, even as she remains true to her faith. The faith-based element of the story was relatively surprising and appreciated, although not necessarily overt, as Ms. Cambron’s other Christian novels have been known for their historical detail over the strength of their Christian themes. As an example of Christian suspense/mystery novels, The Illusionist’s Apprentice may be slightly spooky (there is a graveyard scene) for some readers. However, it remains true to the relatively clean and accessible nature of Christian fiction.
Fans of Ms. Cambron’s previous historical novels, especially The Ringmaster’s Wife, will definitely want to read The Illusionist’s Apprentice. Likewise, readers who enjoy Christian historical fiction set in the early twentieth century will also find this book to be well worth reading.
Special thanks to BookLook Bloggers and Thomas Nelson for the advanced copy of The Illusionist’s Apprentice!
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