Review based on ARC (Advanced Reader Copy received for free in exchange for an honest review).
This is a book with a fascinating subject: The existence and experience of spirits and seances and whether or not they are real (or were proven to be real and/or false). Houdini, named in the title, himself experimented with so-called psychic experiences, but as he never really did them but happened to be particularly talented at convincing people he was "the real deal," he was particularly skeptical about all others who claimed to in fact be in contact with spirits and/or the dead.
In addition to Houdini, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was heavily involved in the whole spirit world - he was an ardent believer of contact with the dead, largely driven by various deaths in his own life and others and the loss of so many people in the recent war and epidemic.
And then there is the famed Witch of Lime Street, the wife of a Boston surgeon. She is young and smart and appears to be genuine.
In addition, Scientific American created a contest to determine whether any psychic could prove his or her merits. And of course Conan wants Margery (the Witch of Lime Street) to enter the contest, and Houdini is on the committee to determine whether she (among others) are legitimate.
So, fascinating, right?! Right up my alley. Interesting historical topic about very interesting people.... and Jaher doesn't do a bad job. He just doesn't do a particularly good job either. I found the book often dragged and spent too much time re-explaining the same inclinations of the various peoples, rather than moving more quickly through the events and analyses. Nonetheless, I enjoyed learning more about the topic and found myself repeating the information I'd learned to others in (somehow) every day topic.
Overall, a good historical account of a fascinating group of people and series of events. I would recommend to people interested in the subject, with the obvious caveat to simply "bear with" the parts that seem to drag.
Overall, THREE of five stars.