Danger in the Dark: A Houdini & Nate Mystery -- Tom Lalicki

Thirteen-year-old Nathaniel G. Makeworthy Fuller IV lives in New York City with his mother and great-aunt.  Although they are very well-off -- well, his great-aunt is -- he works as a clerk's assistant at Bennett & Son, Gentlemen's Hatters of Fifth Avenue.

Danger in the Dark: A Houdini & Nate Mystery (Houdini and Nate Mysteries)At work he is tormented by Mr. Winchell, the fifteen-year-old junior clerk, and at home he is becoming more and more concerned about the almost nightly seances run by Mr. David Douglas Trane, his great-aunt's 'spirit advisor'.

Enter Harry Houdini, who needs a new hat.

The story started off slow, but overall, I enjoyed it.  Nate was a bit bland, but still a decent main character.  I do hope that his co-worker, Ace Winchell, will be a recurring character -- he has much more spark.  Houdini and Bess were likable, but they seemed less like real people and more like historical automatons.  Tom Lalicki's Author's Note mentions that a good amount of what Houdini says in the book (especially in regards to spiritualists) was pulled directly from Houdini's statements to the press, so that could account for part of the stilted feeling.

It's clear that the author did a whole lot of research in an effort to be accurate.  There are lots of references to specific inventions and scientific breakthroughs of the time.  Sometimes the references blend seamlessly into the narrative, sometimes they feel like they've just been plopped in.

Danger in the Dark is the first book in a new series geared towards the 8-12 set.  If they can get past the yuck-o cover art, I think it'll go over well with fans of series-type mysteries like the Hardy Boys and the Three Investigators, although it's a different kind of mystery -- our heroes already know who the Big Bad is, they just need proof.  I'd also try it on kids that are already fans of the historical-fiction-action-mystery genre.  (You know, like the Hoobler books and maybe Vesper Holly.)  It's flawed, but I'd feel comfortable recommending it to certain readers.