Poisoned Pen, Jun 7 2011, $24.95
In 1904 Appleton, Wisconsin, someone murders pregnant teenager Frana Lempke. The townsfolk are stunned by the homicide. Just graduated from high school, reporter Edna Ferber investigates the death of a girl she knew at school, but gets nowhere in how a locked room murder could have occurred.
Edna is especially frustrated and irate with the pompous sexist males who interfere with her serious inquiry that they consider amusing. Meanwhile Harry Houdini is in town visiting friends and agrees to perform. Edna asks Harry to explain the dynamics behind a locked room crime and he taking her seriously and provides a demonstration on how to make an illusion of such an incident.
The second Ferber historical amateur sleuth occurs five decades before Lone Star as the heroine this time is trying to make it as a teen with ambitions and doubts in a man’s world rather than an elderly successful writer. Thus this Ferber has the same fire in the belly as the septuagenarian but is unsure of her abilities and her opportunities. Houdini proves the master magician mentoring her to ignore male illusions of superiority and instead do her thing. The case is a fabulous locked room murder mystery but it is Ferber encouraged by Houdini who makes the tale as she begins to break out of the societal glass cage holding her back.