The Magician's Fire by Simon Nicholson
Meet young Harry who lives in New York City in the 1880's. He's a magician in the making (Harry Houdini). When we first meet Harry he is chained to train tracts staring down an oncoming train. At the last split second, he escapes the chains and jumps to safety. Crazy, right? Well, yes and no. It was a dangerous stunt (yes) but it was also very well thought out by Harry and his two friends, Arthur and Billie. The trio is a close bunch, kind of like the Three Musketeers. Billie is a girl who has come from New Orleans who is very streetwise. Arthur hails from England, has a rich father who doesn't pay attention to him but Arthur is great at research. Harry is from Bulgaria and as you can tell from above, is an aspiring magician. One day, the trio goes to see Harry's good friend, Herbie perform (he's a magician). However, Herbie disappears behind a cloud of purple smoke after the show and no one knows what happened to him. It just so happens a mysterious man attended the show who has an incredibly sinister mustache and creepy snake and sword pin. Could he have kidnapped Harry? It's up to Harry and his friends to try to find out what happened to Herbie.
I must be on a magic kick because this is the second book I've chosen in a matter of a few weeks where the main character was practicing to become a magician. The book was entertaining with a lot of action. There were bits of magic scattered throughout the book but it was mainly a mystery story. I loved spunky Billie (she's my kind of gal!). Arthur and Billy are people I would want to have as friends. Harry was definitely talented but he wouldn't be the kind of friend I would like to have. The story line was pretty good, although I'd say it was loosely based on Houdini's life. There is a "stay tuned" ending for the next book in the series, The Demon Curse. I think it's a definite next read.