A box Jumper is a magician’s assistant and one of Houdini’s box jumpers was Leona Derwatt. Leona came from a working class background and her father idolized Houdini. In 1919 she met Houdini while working in a magic shop, Houdini hired her on as an assistant and she became one of Houdini’s favorite employees. They worked as a team exposing spiritualists as frauds and performing illusions on the stage. Their life together was complicated and it was made more complicated as the charlatans who Houdini exposed as frauds conspired against them.
The Box Jumper by Lisa Mannetti is like a paranormal mystery that keeps you off-balance until the end. The story is told out-of-order which to me made the book seem more original and added to the mood. You have to pay attention to how all the pieces fit together and how the story is told gives it a surrealistic feel. It starts in the past, moves to the present and then keeps going to different periods in the life of Houdini and Leona. You may have one scene with Leona where she is young and life is going well then there is a flash forward to a dark period in her life and then we skip to the future where she is reminiscing on her past. I found myself constantly wondering where this story was going which made the mystery in it that much better.
The best part of The Box Jumper is how it handles Houdini’s history. It deals with how Houdini exposed mediums and spiritualists as frauds and it gets into how the charlatans were able to trick people out of their money. This book brings history to life and showcases spiritualism and magic at a time when it was at the height of its popularity. You don’t have to be a fan of horror to love this book , fans of historical fiction will love it too.
Another good part of this book is Lenora herself, you get to see her at different stages in her life and how she deals with abandonment, disappointment, happiness, and love. For a novella this book touches on several different themes and does a great job of making you feel for Leona. When I first read the ending I was upset by it but after thinking about it a little more I thought the end made perfect sense and I can’t explain that without giving the story away. The Box Jumper is a brilliantly written book and well worth your time.
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