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Adult Books 4 Teens
Inside Adult Books 4 Teens

The Illusion of Murder

Investigative journalist Nellie Bly joins the ranks of real-life characters out to solve mysteries in this historical, the sequel to Carol McCleary’s debut novel, The Alchemy of Murder (Forge, 2010).

I do love the publisher description of her first book: “Nellie Bly…teams up with science fiction genius Jules Verne, the notorious wit and outrageous rogue Oscar Wilde, and the greatest microbe-hunter in history, Louis Pasteur.  Together, they must solve the crime of the century. They are all in Paris—the capital of Europe and center of world culture—for the 1889 World’s Fair.  But an enigmatic killer stalks the streets and a virulent plague is striking down Parisians by the thousands. Convinced that the killings are connected to the pandemic, Nellie is determined to stop them both… no matter what the risks.”

Goodness! Sounds a bit like The Devil in the White City, doesn’t it?

Speaking of our heroine, I recommend Bylines: A Photobiography of Nellie Bly by Sue Macy (National Geographic, 2009). It’s middle grade, but anyone interested in the basics of her life could hardly do better.

MCCLEARY, Carol. The Illusion of Murder. Bk. 2. 352p. Forge. 2011. Tr $24.99. ISBN 978-0-7653-2204-3. LC number unavailable.  The Illusion of Murder

Adult/High School–Intrepid American reporter Nellie Bly is the star of this period mystery. Plucky, outrageous, brave, and sharp, her true-life circumstances make her adventures seem natural. In this sequel to The Alchemy of Murder (Forge, 2010), Nellie is engaged in a race around the world to beat Jules Verne’s 80-day story. Opening with action scenes worthy of Indiana Jones, she witnesses the murder of a man who whispers the word “Amelia” and secretly passes her a key before dying in her arms. After subsequent attempts on her own life, Nellie becomes determined to solve the murder, even as she races around the world by ship and train. What follows is an exotic adventure featuring magic tricks and red-herrings, with danger and conspiracy at every turn. Other real-life figures play supporting roles, including Frederick Selous, a famous big-game hunter and potential love interest for Nellie, and the fascinating actress Sarah Bernhardt. With a sometimes contradictory blend of feminist conviction and naiveté, Nellie shows  determination and spunk that will keep the interest of teens looking for an historical adventure. Teens not familiar with the intrepid reporter will benefit from the “editor’s” footnotes explaining historical references and the photographs and news clippings that add authenticity to the story. Readers may want to follow up with Bly’s true published account, Around the World in Seventy-Two Days.–Priscille Dando, Robert E. Lee High School, Fairfax County, VA

Angela Carstensen About Angela Carstensen

Angela Carstensen is Head Librarian and an Upper School Librarian at Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York City. Angela served on the Alex Awards committee for four years, chairing the 2008 committee, and chaired the first YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adult committee in 2009. Recently, she edited Outstanding Books for the College Bound: Titles and Programs for a New Generation (ALA Editions, 2011). Contact her via Twitter @AngeReads.


  1. Priscille Dando says:

    If you or your teens enjoy mysteries based on real people, check out one of my favorite mystery websites/newsletters, Stop, You’re Killing Me!. They’ve put together a nice list at