Title: The Spirit Engineer
Author: A. J. West
Genre: Thriller, Historical Fiction, Horror
Date of Publication: October 7, 2021
Publisher: Duckworth Books
Belfast, 1914. Two years after the sinking of the Titanic, high society has become obsessed with spiritualism in the form of seances that attempt to contact the spirits of loved ones lost at sea.
William is a man of science and a sceptic, but one night with everyone sat around the circle something happens that places doubt in his heart and a seed of obsession in his mind. Could the spirits truly be communicating with him or is this one of Kathleen’s parlour tricks gone too far?
This early 20th century gothic set in Northern Ireland contains all the mystery and intrigue one might expect from a Sarah Waters novel. Deftly plotted with echoes of The Woman in Black, readers will be thrilled to discover West’s chilling prose.
Based on the true story of William Jackson Crawford and famed medium Kathleen Goligher, and with a cast of characters that include Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini, The Spirit Engineer conjures a haunting tale that will keep readers guessing until the very end.
While this is a historical fiction, it’s easy to read with a flowing, lyrical writing style that captures the essence of the time, but isn’t hard to follow. In the beginning, the narrative reflects a dry humor which is exacerbated by William’s curmudgeonly attitude. He seems like an old man with the way that he’s constantly searching for his pipe and how little he can relate to his children. If it were modern times, he would be the guy standing on his porch, shrieking at the neighbourhood children to “get off my lawn!” Then, it’s revealed that he’s thirty-four. I laughed out loud at that point, and while I realize that people aged a little faster back then, he is definitely an old soul.
This humour didn’t detract from the tension prevalent from the very first pages. There are quite a few surprising turns of events in the storyline, and I genuinely didn’t know what was going to happen. One thing that disappointed me slightly was the fact that Harry Houdini and Arthur Conan Doyle, while mentioned on the back of the book, don’t show up until very far into the book. I understand that their names were likely a selling point for the novel, and eeeverything is about marketing these days (groan) but I couldn’t help but feel disappointed that they didn’t play a larger role in the plot. That in no way affects my rating or my review, because I understand that the author and his story has nothing to do with this. It’s just the publishers and their marketing of the book! Continue reading “Book Review: The Spirit Engineer by A. J. West”