Mrs. Houdini

A Novel

Mrs. Houdini

“Richly lyrical and thought-provoking” (Publishers Weekly, starred review), this “stellar debut from a novelist to watch” (Geraldine Brooks, Pulitzer Prize winning author) explores the passionate marriage of Harry Houdini and his wife, Bess—a love story that defied death itself.

Before escape artist Harry Houdini died, he vowed he would find a way to speak to his beloved wife, Bess, from beyond the grave using a coded message known only to the two of them. But when a widowed Bess begins seeing this code in seemingly impossible places, it becomes clear that Harry has an urgent message to convey. Unlocking the puzzle will set Bess on a course back through the pair’s extraordinary romance, which swept the illusionist and his bride from the beaches of Coney Island, to the palaces of Budapest, to the back lots of Hollywood. When the mystery finally leads Bess to the doorstep of a mysterious young photographer, she realizes that her husband’s magic may have been more than just illusion.

In surprising turns that weave through the uncertain days of the dawn of the twentieth century and continue into the dazzling 1920s, Mrs. Houdini is a “dazzling and enchanting” (Shelf Awareness, starred review) tale, “a marvel that gallops through time and space” (Associated Press), and a “mesmerizing reimagining” (People) of one of history’s greatest love stories.
  • Washington Square Press | 
  • 320 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781501110917 | 
  • March 2017
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Mrs. Houdini includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Love transcends time and space in Victoria Kelly’s thrilling debut.

Before Harry Houdini dies, he promises his beloved wife that he will speak to her from beyond the grave through messages in a code only known to the two of them. Once widowed, Bess Houdini begins to discover the hidden codes in the most impossible places, leading her on a journey to reconnect with her late husband.

From the dawn of the twentieth century through the Roaring 1920s, Victoria Kelly’s novel presents a dazzling tale of history’s most thrilling romance. In Mrs. Houdini, Harry performs his most marvelous act of all: convincing readers to trust in the unknown and ultimately to believe in magic.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. Harry proposes to Bess the night that he meets her. What about Bess instantly captures his heart? Why do you think she accepts his proposal? How would you react if you were Bess?

2. Harry was a great believer in transformation: “It was a fact of human nature . . see more

About the Author

Victoria Kelly
Photograph by Jessica Van Nest

Victoria Kelly

Victoria Kelly received her M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, her B.A. Summa Cum Laude from Harvard University, and her M.Phil. in creative writing from Trinity College Dublin, where she was a US Mitchell Scholar. She is the author of the poetry collection When the Men Go Off to War. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in the anthologies Best American Poetry 2013 and Contemporary American Poetry, as well as Alaska Quarterly Review, Southwest Review, Prairie Schooner, and North American Review. She lives in Virginia with her husband and daughters.