We gave it a B
Step right up! Come see a his-TORY of magic so lov-ING and com-PRE-hensive it should astound and amaze. Unfortunately, it doesn’t. This well-researched account of stage illusions circa late 19th century is chockful of colorful characters (Harry Houdini), mystifying tricks (disappearing motorcycles), and old saws (an entire chapter is devoted to — what else? — sawing a woman in half). But the author gets stuck between his audiences; his text often bogs down in too-technical detail and skimps on the most rudimentary characteristic of magic: wonder.