Book Review: The Witch of Lime Street: Séance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World, by David Jaher

The Witch of Lime Street: Séance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit WorldThe Witch of Lime Street: Séance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World by David Jaher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I won The Witch of Lime Street in a books giveaway quite some time ago. I put it on the stack and didn't remember it until I recently added some large gorgeous bookshelves to the house and started shelving my books properly. I'm so glad I did!

This book is a non-fiction, but reads like a novel. The author, David Jaher, has conjured up a great story, with magic, celebrities, sex, spirits, violent death and hubris. It all takes place in the 1920s, after the Great War, when Spiritualism gained strength as a movement. The war, and even more so the Spanish Flu, had killed so many people, that many bereaved loved ones wanted to try to contact their dearly departed one more time. Mediums were popping up the world over, and famous people like respected author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle were promoting Spiritualism to willing audiences. At the same time, others, such as Harry Houdini, were combating it by doing demonstrations of how the mediums performed their tricks, no ghosts needed. He claimed that if a medium were proved to be legitimate, he would convert to Spiritualism himself.

In 1922, Margery Crandon, the beautiful, young, third wife of a respected doctor in Boston, starts amazing friends by channeling the voice of her brother Walter, a handsome man killed gruesomely in a railroad accident at the age of 28. Into this mix of mediums, magicians and advocates are pulled the various members of the groups that will test Margery to see if she is the genuine article - a respectable woman who can actually bring forth the dead.

The author somehow manages to portray the frantic, frenzied time when all of this occurred, along with the personalities that became embroiled in the testing, without becoming didactic or tedious. I won't give anything away - you'll have to read it yourself to find out if Margery was the real deal, if Houdini became a believer, and whatever happened to Walter.

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