The Spirit Engineer

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Pub Date 07 Oct 2021 | Archive Date 16 Sep 2021

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Belfast, 1914. Two years after the sinking of the Titanic, high society has become obsessed with spiritualism. In their collective grief they are attempting to reach their departed through séances.

William Jackson Crawford is a man of science and a sceptic, but one night with everyone sitting around the circle, voices come to him seemingly from beyond the veil, placing 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?

Based on the true story of William Jackson Crawford and famed medium Kathleen Goligher, and with a cast of characters that includes Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini, West conjures a haunting tale that will keep you guessing until the end.

Belfast, 1914. Two years after the sinking of the Titanic, high society has become obsessed with spiritualism. In their collective grief they are attempting to reach their departed through séances.


Advance Praise

‘This is a fiendishly clever tale of ambition, deception, and power, engineered by some excellent sleight of hand. What a debut – and what a rich, beautifully written, gothic treat.’ 


‘I adored this book. Haunting, witty and deeply moving, The Spirit Engineer is surely set to become a gothic classic. I was instantly drawn into the mystery and swept along by the shocking twists and turns. A beautifully written novel.’


‘A.J. West has history at his fingertips and writes brilliantly - so clever it makes your head spin! The Spirit Engineer is a work of true invention and drama that moves at a cracking pace from the very first page and keeps you guessing. A compelling and daring book.’


‘Set in a historical moment where science and spiritualism meet, The Spirit Engineer is an ingeniously plotted debut novel.’

SARAH BURTON, author of The Strange Adventures of H

‘A marvellous and menacing gothic chiller, filled with secrets and soaked in atmosphere, in which the ghouls and fiends are not of the other world, but this one...’

NEIL BLACKMORE, author of The Intoxicating Mr Lavelle

‘A spooky tale of frustrated ambition, hidden loyalties, and desperation, told with wit, charm and devastating twists. A Gothic novel that also manages to make you laugh, even if you shouldn't.’


‘I won’t pretend I wasn’t disarmed by the initial tone of this novel, with something of Mr. Pooter from The Diary of a Nobody (one of my favourite books) in the scientist narrator. There is a clumsy charm and warmth displayed by William Crawford in early family relations. But with a skilful misdirection that any Edwardian spirit medium would be proud to demonstrate, A.J. West soon turns the screw in this fascinating novel.

The reader is immersed in tragic worlds of grief and guilt in which the sceptic scientist (based on a real-life character) sets up experiments to prove that spirit mediums are tricksters, only then to be convinced that souls live on when bodies die. Obsession builds, as does his fame until the stunning climax of the final shocking séance and its awful repercussions. Was William rights to be convinced? Did he prove ghosts exist?’

ESSIE FOX, author of The Somnambulist

‘One of the Goligher Circle’s many mysteries is how it has never inspired a novel. The Spirit Engineer at last makes up that loss, with a gripping Gothic story anchored in the political and spiritual chaos of Edwardian Belfast. Part horror, part history, The Spirit Engineer is a chilling and thought-provoking tale of exploitation, faith, deception, fraud, séances, hubris, and prejudice. A. J. West has made an accomplished, page-turning debut by dramatising the enigmatic tragedy of Kathleen Goligher and William Crawford. Fans of Penny Dreadful and The Nevers will love it.’

GARETH RUSSELL, historian and author of The Ship of Dreams: The Sinking of the Titanic and the End of Edwardian Belfast

‘This is a fiendishly clever tale of ambition, deception, and power, engineered by some excellent sleight of hand. What a debut – and what a rich, beautifully written, gothic treat.’ 



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Featured Reviews

I was nervous to read this, as I loved the sound of it so much, I thought there was no way it could fully live up to my expectations. But not only did it surpass them, its at the top of my books of the year. It goes from giving you chills, to checking over your shoulder, to heart palpitations, to choked up with tears, to full on spit your tea out laughing. All of the emotions!

The story of The Spirit Engineer is so fascinating and rich with gorgeous lines, but for me the strength are its characters, particularly William Jackson Crawford. I loved him from the first page. He made mistakes and went about some things in questionable ways, and I did find myself wanting to shake him and give him a bit of a talking to! But it was clear his intentions were always good, and it was all to seek approval and respect from his peers, and the love of his wife and family.

There are ghosts, there are plot twists, and there are some of the funniest one liners I have ever read. It's a perfect Halloween read. I can't wait to re read it during spooky season. And I'm so excited to read more from this talented debut author

Many thanks to Duckworth and Netgalley for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review

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1914, Belfast, two years after the sinking of the Titanic, spiritualism seems to be taking off amongst high society. William Jackson Crawford is an engineer, a man of science, a sceptic.
When Elizabeth, Williams wife, joins Kathleen Goligher's circle, William is drawn in only to hear voices that appear to come from nowhere. William doubts himself and soon an obsession to find the truth takes over. Is it simply parlour tricks it real?

Wow, wow, wow, what a debut from AJ West!

This was one of my most highly anticipated reads of the year and I am so glad it didn't disappoint.

The Spirit Engineer had me hooked from the first page. I was totally captivated by the style of the writing, I felt like I was taken back in time so much so, I could smell the smells and kept checking over my shoulder. This book is spooky, it gets inside your head but not only that, there are some one liners that had me chuckling.
I absolutely loved this book, it kept me reading long into the night. Its engaging, spooky, funny and I will thinking about that ending for a long time.

I can't wait to read more from AJ West.

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Thank you for giving me the opportunity to read this book!
Amazing. Phenomenal. Astounding. Fantastic and all the other words!

Until a couple of weeks ago I had no idea that this book was coming out this year. I hadn't heard anything about, I hadn't seen anything about it. When I saw it available on NetGalley I just thought it sounded interesting and thought it was worth requesting.
Best thing I have ever done! This book is my favourite book of 2021 so far and honestly might be one of my favourites of all time!

I actually finished this book a couple of days ago but didn't write my review straight away because I wanted to give myself some time to find something, ANYTHING, wrong with it... and I failed. This book is a 5 out of 5 in all aspects.

The scene was perfectly set. Every single character in the book managed to be completely fleshed out and beautifully written even if they only appeared a couple of times!
The suspense and the horror involved were amazing as well and I actually found myself a bit creeped out at night sometimes while reading it, which is just perfect.
This is one of the best debut novels I have ever read and I can't wait to see more from A.J.West!

3 things that happened after this book that just prove its excellence:
1. I gave it 5 stars. Extremely rare for me, I never rate a book as being 'perfect' ... I will nitpick until the cows come home, but here we are.
2. It scared me! I've been reading horror for the better part of 2 years now and I'm constantly complaining that I'm bored and not scared enough but this managed to get there.
3. I ORDERED A PHYSICAL COPY! - I never do this if I've already read the e-book but I just need to have this on my shelves!

This review is all just one big ramble but I have a lot of feelings about this book and no idea how to get them all out.

No notes! If you do anything this year, read this book!

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AJ West’s The Spirit Engineer is an uncomfortable read in places. William Crawford is a Professor of Engineering at the Municipal Technical institute in Belfast, living with his wife Elizabeth and their children: Margaret, Helen and Robert. Despite his (presumably well-paid) job, the family struggle for money. The novel is narrated by William and I cringed at his refusal to admit they’re slowly starving. Elizabeth is in mourning for her brother, who was on the Titanic. William thinks he was probably locked away below decks – primarily because William sent a telegram to the authorities, alerting them to William’s criminal activities.

There is mystery from the start of the novel: why did the housemaid, Hazel, leave so suddenly? Why don’t they eat well? Why don’t William and Elizabeth share a bedroom anymore? Why is William so self-absorbed and wilfully blind? He doesn’t help his wife; he doesn’t take the children off her hands, claiming that he’s busy with his work. I really felt for his wife, with her sad drudgery. She seeks solace at her church but then we overhear another woman saying to her, “We have missed you at our church meeting these last few weeks”.

William finds out where Elizabeth has been going and becomes acquainted with Kathleen Goligher, a young medium. William’s world is all precision engineering and facts. Surely all mediums, spiritualists, etc. are fakes, aren’t they? You just need to find out how they perform their tricks, don’t you? And if a Professor of Engineering with access to precision instruments and with a scientific method can’t find a trick, doesn’t that imply the spirits are real? Hence the world’s first Spirit Engineer.

I didn’t enjoy this book, but I don’t think it was meant to be “enjoyed”. I did, however, find it gripping, enthralling, shocking and, in one episode prior to the gala dinner, funny. Don’t read this book if you like your world cozy, innocent and where everything has a happy-ever-after story.

#TheSpiritEngineer #NetGalley

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Belfast, 1914. Two years after the sinking of the Titanic, high society has become obsessed with spiritualism. In their collective grief they are attempting to reach their departed through séances.

William Jackson Crawford is a man of science and a sceptic, but one night with everyone sitting around the circle, voices come to him seemingly from beyond the veil, placing 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?

Based on the true story of William Jackson Crawford and famed medium Kathleen Goligher, and with a cast of characters that includes Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini, West conjures a haunting tale that will keep you guessing until the end.

All I can say is this author has gained a forever reader with me!

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I initially chose this book based on it description. In the description, Sir Author Conan Doyle is mentioned and I was instantly intrigued, although his role in the story is very small. I have been reading another book which talks about his fascination with the spirit world, and this book drew me in very quickly,

I started this book unsure of what to expect but was not disappointed at all! Set in 1914 Belfast, Ireland, two years after the sinking of the famed ship, the Titanic. Spiritualism has captivated the high society of the time. William Jackson Crawford, a man of science, an engineer, a skeptic. When he follows his wife one night suspecting her of an affair, he is transported into a world of voices and shadows, is it real or is it all just one big con?

After following his wife and discovering what she was up to, he is immersed into the world of spiritualism, even donning the name The Spirit Engineer, his name a marriage of his two sides. The once skeptic is determined to show others the proof he has of the spirit world being real. Can he prove his theories or will he discover more than he bargained for before all is said and done?

This book was beautifully written, immersive with vibrant descriptions that transport you directly to the 1900's. I even found some era appropriate music to stream while reading to complete my immersion. The story flows well and I found that I was dying to see what would happen next. I absolutely did not see the ending coming. I love a good twist ending! I cannot wait to see more from this author!

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It’s no secret that this book has been one of the most anticipated reads of the year. There has been a frenzy building around this book with some very clever marketing. Naturally this makes you excited to read it but also worried it’s just hype; I’m happy to report it most certainly is not hype - it’s beautiful.

Based on a true story we begin in Belfast post the demise of the Titanic where we meet Professor William Jackson Crawford, a man of science, his wife Elizabeth and their three children. Although a clever man the Crawford’s are not exactly the wealthiest family with financial sponsorship from Aunt Adelia, (not an Aunt at all) poking her nose in and being a perfect snob - some brilliant exchanges between William and Adelia! What was interesting to learn was that a lot of people turned to seances post titanic with the huge loss of life. This was taboo and often thought to be going against god. Being a man of science William sets out to disprove ghosts and to debunk Mediums with experiments of his own making. What he discovers is the biggest surprise of all.

The writing style was fluid, sympathetic to the time period and well researched. The author managed to use humour appropriately without ruining an otherwise serious story. There was sadness, pity and tragedy to contend with. Clever writing providing clues throughout the book that all came together at the end magnificently.. It was a perfect penny drop moment where everything became crystal clear and left you paused in your own thoughts while you cast your mind back over the story to piece everything together - genius!

The author has documented his research and I would urge you to watch this along with the book, it’s fascinating to see the institute where William worked along with other pieces of evidence that appear in the book.

Anyone who follows me will know that more often than not I’m let down or left deflated by an ending. Impatient with a need for closure that I often don’t get…I am thrilled to say this ending took me by the hand, slapped me round the face several times only to give me a gentle kiss goodbye. An absolute dazzler of an ending.

Please pre-order this book. The author has created a masterpiece and one which I think will be talked about for a long time to come.

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First of all, can we all just agree that this is one of the best debuts - nay books - I’ve ever read.

However you can get hold of a copy - buy it, rent it, borrow it, read it over someone’s shoulder, steal it (don’t do that) - you must read this book before 2021 is out. It’s not out until October but I was lucky enough to receive an early copy and I’m so glad I did, I’m not sure I could wait another two months to receive what I now know to be an absolutely stupendous book.

For someone who hates scary movies, I’ve never found myself being frightened by a book before. So when reviews said you should only read this during the day and with never alone, I thought that was an exaggeration. I tell you now - it definitely wasn’t. For someone who believes in ghosts and spirits, it takes a very special writer to get under my skin with them, but AJ does just that with his debut novel.

It may be the e-book version I had, but the illustrations in it are so gorgeous and so clever, I can only imagine what they look like in a hardback copy, and I may have to buy one for myself just so I can hold them in my hands.

The characters that AJ has created feel so familiar, and yet so new and fresh. They feel like friends, but ones we haven’t seen for many years. Whilst it’s not a main plot point, the infrequent mentions of WW1 and the horrors and injuries experienced are done so with sensitivity and respect, avoiding using them as mere entertainment devices.

Considering this is set 100 odd years ago, it is amazing how little things have changed in the world of ghosts and spiritualism. Yes it may be more accepted to believe in it now, but you still get the skeptics determined to damn anyone who dare believe anything different.

Once the twists and turns start coming, they come thick and fast, they are mind blowing and mind boggling, and that epilogue! Wow. I can’t see a sequel happening so I will read this again and again, wishing it was the first time again. And the fact it’s based on a true story just adds to the mystique.

Oh, one more thing. When this is inevitably made into a film, please can Tom Hiddleston be cast as the main protagonist as I saw him from page one. Oh and obviously with me playing his wife, for reasons I don’t really need to get into here, but you know why.

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Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. The Spirit Engineer will be available October 7th.

I will be honest: I didn’t know much about William Jackson Crawford going into The Spirit Engineer, so everything written was a surprise to me. That being said, if I had been an expert on his life, I still would have been engrossed. The Spirit Engineer is an engrossing book that delves deep into the subjects of loss, paranoia, belief, and what can happen when a person’s beliefs are questioned.

Professor William Jackson Crawford is a man of science who doesn’t subscribe to paranormal nonsense, thank you very much. He thinks himself too smart to fall for any trickery and is preoccupied with dreams of rising far in his field. However, William learns that his wife has been visiting mediums and takes it upon himself to disprove the idea of communicating with the deceased. Thus, the Spirit Engineer is born.

I don’t usually comment on the characteristics of those that are based on real people, but William is not likeable at all. Nor is he relatable. At most, I could say he’s pitiable, and even that is a stretch. William is condescending and feels he is superior to others. He is a man who desperately wants to be in control of himself, of his work, of others. The more he feels his orderly life slipping away, the more paranoid and desperate he becomes. Things go in unexpected directions when, instead of proving the medium is a fraud, William sees and hears the spirits himself. Is he deceived? Or has he stumbled upon something otherworldly? Of course, I don’t need a character to be likable or relatable to enjoy a book. Instead, he was fascinating, which is much more important to me.

The writing was fantastic. It was smart and engaging. I’m assuming that there was some embellishment, but the author obviously tried to stay close to the sprit (pun intended) of the facts. The story developed well and the pacing was perfect. It didn’t skip over details, but it also didn’t drag. I raced through this book because I just couldn’t put it down.

The Spirit Engineer is a riveting book. While it’s interesting from a historical standpoint, what really drew me in was the exploration of the human psyche because, when it comes right down to it, that’s much more fascinating and mysterious than anything supernatural.

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I had to read parts of this during the day because at night it gave me a really creepy feeling!

Set in 1914 in Belfast. We follow William Jackson Crawford, the main character who despite his flaws at the beginning is rather funny in his own way. William is a highly respected member of science. He finds out his wife has been going to seances and he joins her to prove if they are real or not , hence the name The Spirit Engineer.

I cannot say too much more about the book as it would ruin it for anyone wanting to read it. But oh my goodness! That ending was not what I expected at all and while reading it I was saying ‘What! oh my god’
I loved this book and when I can get a hold of a physical copy I will be so I can keep it and re read it again.

Highly recommended but just one tip … read during the daytime!

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Wow! This was even better than I expected.
Deeply engrossing, spellbinding and well crafted.
This grabbed me from the get go, and did not let go.
I highly recommend this book.

I voluntarily reviewed an advance reader copy of this book.

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The Spirit Engineer - AJ West

Belfast, 1914. Two years after the sinking of the Titanic, high society has become obsessed with spiritualism, attending séances in the hope they might reach their departed loved ones.

William Jackson Crawford is a man of science and a sceptic, but one night with everyone sitting around the circle, voices come to him – seemingly from beyond the veil – placing 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 Golighers parlour tricks gone too far?

This is in a way an interesting study of the human psyche and one man’s experience - that of Professor William Jackson Crawford.
It starts quite slowly as we learn about this sceptical man of science, his Edwardian stand off ish nature with his family, his suspicions of his wife’s behaviour, his intolerance of his children, yet you do get a real sense of the love he has for them all.
Elizabeth, his wife, attends seances to contact her brother, drowned on the Titanic, but when William attends he hears voices and is tasked with investigating the Goligher medium Kathleen.
Crawford seems to relish his new celebrity, he goes from an almost meek man to one who feels confident in his new role as Spirit Engineer. He becomes controlling, overbearing and almost monstrous in nature, beholden to the power of celebrity and money.
With modern day eyes and a scientist background you can clearly pick holes in his ‘experiments’ , this is a rollicking read.
The author draws you in setting the scene with little tell tale clues as to what may happen, it is well done - much as the Golighers must have done to the real Crawford. With cameos by Harry Houdini and Arthur Conan Doyle, which were fabulous, the story races to its shocking conclusion, there are a few twists I can tell you!

It is difficult to comprehend the importance of Spiritualism to Edwardian society, a way of making sense of the world, a need to be able to cope with what was thrown at them at the time of the Great War and having the huge Titanic disaster occurring just prior to this too.

This is a tense, paranoid tale of how suggestible the human mind can be and will haunt you…read it at night…if you dare!

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Parlor tricks…or something more? The Spirit Engineer takes a fictional look at real people in the hopes of filling in the blanks as to what really went on.

Spiritualism had its hey day in the early part of the 20th century. After all, with the tragedies of The Titanic (which impacts this story), WWI, and the Spanish Flu, it is understandable as to why so many grieving families would want to reach out to their deceased loved ones. And into the void entered many schysters and schemers (and a few well meaners). To which camp Kathleen and her family belonged in, well, dear reader, that is up to you to surmise. (I think we can all agree which camp William was a member of).

This is a haunting story (pun sorta intended) that shows not everything is what it seems, not everyone is who they say they are, and if you wait until about 75% in, the dynamic duo of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini make a chapter long cameo.


PS - watching the videos the author has on YouTube was fascinating and I highly recommend watching them in conjunction with reading this book.

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Thank you for giving me the opportunity to read this book.
I absolutely loved this book!
I may be a bit biased as I live near Belfast and I've never read anything based there before.
I loved all the descriptions of Belfast in the 1900's it really transported me there.
I also really loved the Houdini and Arthur Conan Doyle cameo!
This book was spooky and I definitely think it would be perfect for Halloween and I highly recommend it!

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Very authentic Victorian Gothic novel -I felt transported back in time. I loved the story and I loved the detailed Victorian pen and ink illustrations at the beginning of each section of the book.
The protagonist, who teaches Engineering in Belfast, Ireland at the turn of the 19th century, after World War 1, is well developed. We get to know exactly the type man he is and how he reacts to events beyond his control
It is interesting that this straight laced man of science becomes completely enamored of the spiritual world - he has suffered some personal losses and after the sinking of the Titanic, his reaction to the rising popularity of seances to commune with dead friends and relatives, causes him to become a famous spiritualist himself with a wealthy sponsor.
An unexpected twist at the end was a little confusing to me, but otherwise this was an enjoyable read.

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I was excited to receive this ARC and as I had read so many glowing reviews I bumped it up my TBR list. I will admit to then being a little concerned that it wouldn’t live up to my expectations but I loved it!

To me, the book has been well thought out and I enjoyed the writing style. It has some humour with some very funny descriptions which made me laugh out loud so it’s not all scary. Don’t get me wrong though it does have sadness and gets very dark and creepy at times.

The main character William is very complex and I did swing to and fro between liking and disliking him numerous times but that’s what makes it interesting.

Thank you to #NetGalley and the publisher #DuckworthBooks for the copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. #TheSpiritEngineer #AJWest

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The Spirit Engineer was a surprise for me in so many ways. It is a debut novel written with such confidence, and the level of research (and resulting historical accuracy) into the world of spiritualism in the early 1900’s, creates an unsettling atmosphere, which perfectly represents the struggle between the desperate need to believe in the paranormal phenomenon and the scientific and logical arguments which counteracted it.

The encounters between William and Lady Carter were hilarious – having this dark and dry sense of humour running throughout the book was unexpected but brilliant. It broke up some very intense scenes, ensuring that what could have been a heavy and dark storyline was lessened and made the characters more believable.

I love the fact that one book can make you want to laugh, cry and hide behind a cushion in one sitting. Split into four parts, the first three were interesting and well written, but the fourth part was something else! Knowing that the book was based on a true story, I deliberately avoided looking into the characters before reading it and the final scenes were so explosive and hard-hitting as the truth was revealed. I could barely bring myself to read on as it suddenly dawned on me the way in which the story was heading, while at the same time I was unable to put it down. An authentic, engrossing and emotional novel.

Thanks to NetGalley and Duckworth Books for the opportunity to read an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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I went into this without knowing anything about this family or its history. I chose the book based on its description and other reviews. I was not disappointed at all. It did start off a bit slow for me but quickly took off and I was hooked. You will find yourself going back and forth between is it real or staged. I did figure out a central plot point early on but it in no way altered my experience. Put this book on your reading list! Thanks to NetGalley, the author and publishers for an e-arc in exchange for my honest opinion.

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The year is 1914 in Belfast.

William Jackson Crawford thinks the height of his problems are suddenly losing his housekeeper for his upper-middle class family, but little does he know. Since the Titanic disaster two years prior, the upper elite of society have begun dabbling in the occult, driven by grief to try and contact their dearly departed - including his wife. William prides himself on being a man of logic and science, a proud skeptic, but there are things even he cannot explain when he meets a young medium named Kathleen.

He is driven to find the facts behind the strange and spiritually occurances - is this just a cruel trick, or is something else lurking just behind the veil?

Based on the true story of William Crawford and the famous mystic Kathleen Goligher, along with familar characters such as Houdini and Doyle, this fictional retelling of a chilling story is one to read with the lights on.

The Spirit Engineer opens up to scenes of upper-middle class domesticity, a beautiful family with less than beautiful pride. The man of the house, William Crawford, is immediately thrust into the spotlight and never steps out of our view the whole time. He is sexist and classist, such as you would expect with the times and his status, but it made for a strange feeling - how odd it is to go through the story loathing the main character for their attittude but being so intruiged in their life and still hoping for their success along the way.

Victim or Villian? That's up to you to figure out.

The other characters, from his family, to the friends he meets along the way were so full of life - so brilliantly crafted that it feels the reader could reach out and touch them.

This might be a ghost story, but it's about the ghosts that haunt us in real life too - about loss, family and the pressures we face in the world of the living.

Written in period language, there was a small adjustment period with this book but after a few chapters I was completely immersed in the story - it started off slow, almost mundane, before descending into utter, spine-chilling chaos in the most unexpected ways.

It's no secret this book has been highly anticipated, so I was definitely concerned this wouldn't live up to the hype around it's name - but I was not disappointed. Atmospheric, eerie and otherworldly - this was like if 'The Greatest Showman' was set in a graveyard during the witching hour and I loved every page of it.

"A mystery is only a fact in disguise."

RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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A startlingly brilliant debut from AJ West. A Spirit Engineer is a wonderful tale - full of mystery, intriguing characters and also a surprising amount of humour.
William Crawford is such a complex man - clever, naive at times, obsessive and often not very likeable - he is certainly a character to stir up emotions. I loved how the writing was in the first person, and felt that this meant I experienced everything William did first hand.
The short chapters made the story zip along brilliantly and I loved it.

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I received this from

Based on real historical figures, William Jackson Crawford and famed medium Kathleen Goligher have an extraordinary relationship.

A creepy, gothic (and clean) ghost story that kept me guessing until the end. Good read!


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When I first read about "The Spirit Engineer" I was a little nervous about requesting to review it by NetGalley. The fact that this book is based on a true story intrigued me and I am honored that I was chosen to read it. Thank You.

A. J. West is extremely talented at storytelling with laugh out loud humor as it creeps into eerie and suspense. There is a wonderful cast of characters. William Jackson Crawford is a professor of engineering in Belfast, Ireland in the early 1900's. He is a man of science and a sceptic of spiritualism. He meets Kathleen Goligher who is a spiritual medium. William becomes obsessed with experiments to prove or disprove Kathleen's abilities.

This story is full of twists that are so well crafted by the writing and the story keeps you guessing, even when you didn't realize you were guessing, until the very end. The novel includes moments from the sinking of the Titanic and a visit with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini.

I give this book a 5 star because it is brilliant. It had me feeling many feelings and thinking many thoughts throughout. This is a well told haunting story.

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Based on a true story of William Jackson and Kathleen Goligher, based in Belfast in 1914. The Titanic is still in the news. People are searching for lost loved ones.

The spirit engender, named by his daughter, is searching for his beloved son Robert who has passed on. Not convinced that the seaces aren't rigged in someway he beginning to do experiences with the seer and those around the table. As his experiments begin to be known he receives public acknowledgement. He writes a book explaining his theory.

With such public notice he is receives a request to meet with Arthur Conon Doule and Harry Houdin which provides the reader with historical balance.

Excellent read. Readers will get a feel for the time period, the spiritual movement which will come to the United States.

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A. J. West's The Spirit Engineer is a slow boil of a book. The first 30-40% of the novel is set-up. After that, the pace quickens steadily, and readers become increasingly unsure about the motives and actions of its characters. The plot centers around a family, a medium, and an investigation of paranormal abilities.

The Spirit Engineer opens in the early 20th Century with a family in turmoil and consistently short on funds:
• William, the husband, is an engineering instructor at a boys' school who hopes the textbook he's writing will change their economic outlook and will win him the respect he's convinced is due to him
• Elizabeth, the wife, overwhelmed by their three children—especially their restless, energetic young son—and the household responsibilities that have fallen on her shoulders since their cook/maid left unexpectedly, and who is still mourning the death of her brother on the Titanic
• "Aunt" Adelia, a wealthy widow who has "taken the family under her wing," helping them manage economically while consistently proving an unwanted, disruptive presence

The family, particularly William, become increasingly involved with a young medium. At first, William is determined to prove her a fraud; then he becomes a supporter, gaining fame by publicizing her abilities and his scientific proof that these are genuine.

That, in a nutshell, is the plot. As the family becomes wealthier, William's behavior becomes more controlling and self-serving. What develops from these changes in William provides the real momentum for the novel—and I don't want to say any more for fear of letting slip key moments in the plot.

Near the end, the novel contains some significant violence—not described in detail, but the sort of thing that some readers might choose to avoid. Ultimately however, that violence is contextualized and doesn't become the key element of the novel.

The Spirit Engineer is based on a real-life medium and the engineer investigating her powers. If you want to read more before you pick up this book, you can go here
You may, however, prefer to leave the actual history until after you've spent time in West's version of these events.

I received a free electronic review copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley; the opinions are my own.

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It goes without saying - given the topic matter, this deals heavily with bereavement and the after affects on those left behind - so affected readers beware.

Well what a rollercoaster of a ride this was as West manages to make you feel both sympathy for the very flawed main character William, and then detesting him. This is a character who makes very questionable choices, but despite this I was still gripped and desperate to learn how it ends. And boy what an ending - I honestly didn’t see that end coming and those plot twists really came out of the blue.

West’s writing was immersive for me as it felt like I really was in Belfast in the early 1900s, surrounded by all those supporting characters. I really did feel for these characters as they’re all affected by the experiments undertaken to prove the authenticity of the spirit medium.

What a cracking read! I was really impressed given this is a debut. West’s writing really makes you feel like you’re in the 1900s, with some memorable characters, each with their own nuances. I’m looking forward to more books from West!!

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"The Spirit Engineer" by AJ West evokes the early 20th century perfectly. Based on the true story of Professor William Jackson Crawford and his encounters with medium Kathleen Goligher. It is fascinating to read about spiritualism, the exploration of sham and "real" mediums, plus guest stars Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini who were both involved with spiritualism at the time. The story itself is written really well and it turned out that I suspected the same character as William in meddling with the experiments. Great plot twist at the end too! Perfect reading for the darker winter months.

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The Spirit Engineer is the story of a scientifically minded man attempting to prove or disprove the existence of the afterlife. The main character, William, is at times unlikable and others sympathetic. He is a man waiting for his chance at recognition and success. It appears he is deserving of it based on merit but lacks the connections of others. He is very over confident and frequently day dreams of success at delusional levels. He also seems to be unaware of those around him. Locked into his own viewpoint missing what is going on around him and with other characters. He will acknowledge that his wife has had a more difficult time recently, and when presented with the opportunity to be helpful he will openly critize her. All of his contradictions make the twists and turns hard to see coming, and increase the entertainment of the story.

I received an advanced copy of this book for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

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3.5 stars rounded up.

Set in Belfast 1914, two years after the sinking of the Titanic and right at the start of World War I, as high society's obsession with spiritualism was reaching a peak, this novel is a fictionalized version of the true story of William Jackson Crawford and famed medium Kathleen Goligher, which I knew nothing about before reading this novel.

The first chapter starts with a bang as it flashes forward to 1920 and the end of the novel. Unfortunately though, the rest of Part 1 (about 30% of the novel) dragged for me. This section mostly followed William through his day to day life to set up the plot and I did not really find William a likable protagonist. So while I was intrigued to see how he'd get to where we see him in Chapter 1, I found him rather insufferable and self-centered and did not enjoy being in his head. And potentially because the story is in first person, none of the other characters felt substantial enough to be engaging either. My favorite aspects of Part 1 were the tidbits of life in Edwardian Belfast (mentions of the Titanic, unrest in Ireland, unrest in Europe, etc.) but there wasn't enough of that to keep me interested in Crawford himself.

That being said, after the spooky stuff starts happening at the end of Part 1 and going into the rest of the novel I was thoroughly engrossed. The rest of the story moved at a fairly fast clip and got progressively creepier while still maintaining some moments of humor and levity. While I hated being in first person POV in Part 1, I think it worked really well for the rest of the novel because we got to experience the events through the eyes of Crawford and it made his journey into spiritualism more visceral. I loved the journey of sceptic to publicly endorsing séances and the cameos by Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini were quite clever.

I think this novel is a really solid debut and the perfect spooky season read, especially for those who already have interest in historical fiction and/or spiritualism and séances. Throughout the novel, it is clear that A.J. West has done his research into the era and these people. He also has all sorts of extra information about the real-life Crawford and Goligher on his website and even made a Spotify playlist that really helped set the mood for the story!

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This story is powerful and gripping. It drags you into a world of spiritual curiosity. The story follows William, an engineer who is charming and intelligent. He is a rational man and is curious of the after life. He wants to look after his family and provide for them. He must however, investigate the curious things he sees and hears. I highly recommend this book.

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At the turn of the summer season, there is nothing better than a ghostly tale to prepare us for autumn and Halloween. But, don't get me wrong, The Spirit Engineer is by no means a ghost story.

Set in 1914, after the sinking of the Titanic, The Spirit Engineer is a fantastic work of historical fiction based in fact. One of my favourite things about the book, was not even in the book itself (Although the cover is gorgeous, and I definitely need to get my hands on a hardcover copy for my bookshelves!). Having finished the story, and wanting to source the validity of the tale, I googled William Jackson Crawford and was directed to A.J West's very own website, detailing his research for the book! Check it out for yourself here.

[Link included on Goodreads]

I was also very interested to learn that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was an outspoken spiritualist! Having read all of the works surrounding Sherlock Holmes that I have been able to get my hands on, I found it the ultimate irony that Sherlock's creator believed in the supernatural! I was also fascinated to learn that Harry Houdini debunked spiritualists.

I spent the entire read pondering my own views on spiritualism. I am still undecided what I believe, but thoroughly enjoyed the ride this question and - by extension - the book, led me on.

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Spirit Engineer
Sep 7 2021

I am speechless. I can truly say I have never had a final chapter of a book punch me so endlessly, over and over, with such satisfying conclusions and reveals.


My only beef was how long it took me to truly be interested. I am a type who suffers through exposition—I know it has to be there, but I rarely enjoy it. It took me about 100 pages of Spirit Engineer to be all-in, but I’m so glad I got there.

The atmosphere was completely delicious, and despite my constant frustration and dread surrounding our protagonist, I really loved the characters and the pacing (after the initial 100 pages.)

I absolutely love a “is it supernatural or are they all bonkers or frauds” vibe, and if that’s your thing too, then this one is very for you.

*many thanks to netgalley for this arc*

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When you start a book late at night and wake up with your glasses on and kindle in hand, you know it’s a good one as you literally couldn’t put it down.

This fantastic debut needs to be added to everyone’s list, and being released in October, it is THE spooky book to read this Halloween.

I loved the start of the book, learning about Crawford and family life before following his journey into spiritualism (look out for some recognisable character). The seance scenes were so eerie to read about, such atmospheric writing.

Throughout the book, you can clearly understand the amount of research that AJ West has undertaken to make this book what it is. Make sure you check out his website for more information on the characters.

This is screaming to be made into film (to be watched with the lights on tho! 😂)

Thank you to @netgalley @duck_books for the advanced readers copy in exchange for a honest review.

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This was one of the spookiest books I've read recently. It's about ghosts but also family, loss, greed and the pressures society puts us under. Haunting, deeply moving and overall very well researched. Really brilliant stuff!

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A stunning novel and worthy debut, that examines grief and guilt, that descends into madness and delusion.
Tragically based upon real life protagonists, William Jackson Crawford, and medium, Kathleen Goligher, this is set in Belfast 1914, two years after the sinking of the Titanic. There was so much grief and guilt following this disaster, that many people turned to spiritualism, in the form of churches or taking part in seances, in an attempt to contact their loved ones.
William Crawford is an engineer, and he set up experiments to prove that spirit mediums are frauds and use trickery, then he becomes convinced that souls do live on after the body has died, due to a set of tragic family deaths.
There are ghosts, crafty plot twists, red herrings galore, and enough chills and shocks to keep a person intrigued, but read in the daylight!!
This excited and scared me in equal amounts, and when it also involved Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who was a genuine believer, and Harry Houdini, a genuine sceptical person, it made this story even more clever. At times the action was like a staged play, there were plenty of clues, but I missed them all. I was like a fish, hooked and unable to let go of these pages. I didn’t see the ending and it was a complete shock, and made me question all I had understood before.
Wonderful! A five star read. I will recommend the life out of this one ( sorry!), and it will find its way onto my actual bookshelf this October, birthday treat for myself.
Many thanks to Netgalley and Duckworth publishers for my ARC, in return for my honest and unbiased review, freely given. I will post reviews to other retailers later.

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“There is an ocean of souls coming, Professor, can you feel them? So many dead. More of them every day. Listen to your lost ones, before their voices are drowned in the flood.”

Never has a terrible spiral that plummets into lunacy and darkness been so entertaining.

Absolutely gripping from the first page until the last, The Spirit Engineer was a surprising read that drags you along with the ride all the way through with its fantastic plot, impeccable atmosphere, and impressive writing style that manages to balance humor and tension perfectly.

I was completely hooked, breathlessly following this despicable specimen of a main character with so much pleasure, horror, and morbid curiosity.
I would definitely recommend to everyone who is a fan of gothic horrors and has a strange little pull towards the paranormal world of seances. An absolute gem for the spooky season. Don’t miss out.

<i>“Imagine all those lost souls trapped beyond the veil, watching us as we go about our lives. I think I should like to die a grizzly, unavenged death in a hotel room, wouldn’t you? Imagine the scandalous things one would see, floating above the bedrooms.”</i>

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The Spirit Engineer by A.J.West is a haunting-pardon the pun-novel.

It's based upon real people: William Jackson Crawford, and the medium, Kathleen Goligher, and is set in Belfast 1914, two years after the sinking of the Titanic. Coupled with the war that came too, it was a peak time for spiritualism and seances in an attempt to contact loved ones.

William Crawford is an engineer who becomes embroiled in a local family's seances after his brother-in-law and son die, and his wife is desperate to speak to them.

Aided by investors, William sets up experiments to prove Kathleen, the spirit guide, and her family are frauds. Instead, William starts to believe souls do come back and that's where the danger lies.

I loved this book. It's full of ghosts, twists, secrets, chills, and surprises. No one and nothing is as it seems.

Beautifully written and the progression of William's character and how being the spirit engineer affects him is brilliant.

A novel I won't forget in a hurry.

The perfect book to read leading up to Halloween. Published 7th October.

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*Thank you to NetGalley and the author for an ARC.
Okay, if you have this book in your hand you're in for a treat. The story takes place in the 1920s , after WWI, when Spiritualism swept the world by storm. It's the story of an engineer who, thanks to his wife, gets involved in seances. At first a sceptic, he soon sees and hears things that make him a believer in the afterlife and communication with the dead. It kept me reading and kept me guessing. Highly recommended!

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Thank you @Netgalley and @duck_books for this ARC copy in return for an honest review.

Two years after the sinking of The Titanic, when the world is on the cusp of war, Professor of Engineering William Jackson Crawford a man of science and sceptic finds himself living in a house he can’t afford with a family who misunderstand him.

When he discovers his wife Elizabeth has gotten herself entangled in the world of séances and shadows, Professor Crawford is tasked to investigate the physical phenomena of Kathleen Goligher and the group around her, known as the Goligher Circle.

Based on the real life story of Crawford and set in Belfast in the early 20th century, this is a spooky, atmospheric read, well crafted and imaginative. Crawford as a protagonist is quite unlikeable, arrogant and full of his own self importance, however the author very cleverly mixes this unpleasant personality with plenty of intelligent wit and a sufficient amount of human suffering so as to make him possible to bear.

The writing is really good, the story plot driven and fairly well paced. It is shaped into IV parts, each one more eerie and sinister than its predecessor, emphasizing the unravelling of the human mind when faced with the unbelievable.

The ending is a mammoth I failed to see coming. Its the type of ending I love and applaud, making me rethink all the little clues I could recall but failed to connect. A great choice for this spooky time of year.

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This wonderfully gothic twisty novel reads like a classic. Set during the height of the spiritualist movement, this novel draws on the human need to cling on to what is lost and explores the lengths that the bereaved would go to in the hope of making connections with loved ones. Full of creepy atmosphere, and featuring cameos from Conan Doyle and Houdini, this book is perfect for fans of Laura Purcell. I loved it!

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The Spirit Engineer is a fascinating book. Spiritualism, paranoia, loss and hope are all explored. The characters and premise are engaging throughout. I highly recommend it.

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A creepy and very gothic feeling that keeps you reading, and on the edge of your toes. Some great cameo moments from some high profile names of the time. The language, on occasion did irritate me with "Farfur" and sadly I struggled to get past it.

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This was a fascinating story about spiritualism in the early 1900's.. William Jackson Crawford who initially is an unbeliever. However through his wife Elizabeth he becomes involved in seances with the medium Kathleen Golightly. Crawford is a respected engineer however it soon becomes clear that he has a pompous and bullish attitude. Although dark and disturbing in parts this was excellently written by the author.

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<b>Subjective rating:</b>4/5
<b>Content Warnings:</b>death, betrayal, abuse (includes breaking fingers), nightmares

This book is haunting. In the best way.

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.

Historical horror/paranormal? Everyone, sign the f*ck up.

William Jackson Crawford, aka The Spirit Engineer, is one of the most complex characters you will read about. Especially in a genre like this. In the reader’s eye, he is sweet, smart, mad, stupid, lovely, disgusting. All of these fit him from point to point throughout the story. And this, my friends, is really storytelling.

The writing is beautiful, probably because of the elegant phrasing and dialogues. It has a flow that keeps the reader involved. It made me think back to The Great Gatsby.

The characters are peculiar, complex and mostly annoying. Their opinions and ways of doing things are fascinatingly original. I hated most of them in the best way. The author also captured the connections between historical context and events and the character voices. Social classes and different genders’ roles in the society were well done.

However, the book has flaws. The plot in the first half seemed to miss things. Some characters did not necessarily need to be there. They added nothing to the story, which felt like giving too much attention to the wall behind our characters. Yet, the author is still new and jus like everyone else -maybe even more than everyone else-, has the great potential of improving.

Overall, a fantastically written spooky story that will keep you at the edge of your seats.

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I instantly fell in love with this book when I saw it on here and to actually have gotten approved for it was amazing.
The cover is so beautiful and the art inside is stunning.
The first chapter of the book was immensely gripping. And had me hooked in no time. It has short chapters which I absolutely loved. It was an immensely engrossing story, with alot of gothic and spooky elements.
I am a huge fan of historical fiction and I had never read anything that even remotely touched the incident of Titanic, I haven't even watched the movie so I was very keen and fascinated to read a book that involved this incident. We were
also taken back to WWI and many known key figures were a part of this riveting tale, which was a pleasant surprise and frankly added to its allure.
Its true, this book had me on the edge of my seat, guessing late into the night. The narration and the plot were both hilarious and witty, and oh eerie.
The protagonist William did annoy me at times and his stubbornness to prove the spiritual guide wrong was a bit grating but hey if he hadn't felt like proving him wrong we wouldn't have had a tale woven with twists and turns.
And that ending, My God!! How will I ever recover from that ending?
I highly recommend this book.

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A good book about a man trying to work out whether ghosts exist or not. Intermixed with his scientific attempts to prove it one and for all are questions about his own past, his misgivings and pride. The beginning gives a sense of foreboding to the story and it rattles to its inevitable conclusion, but along a route is quite unexpected.

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Thanks to the published and Netgalley for an eARC version of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Okay. First off, I *almost* DNF this one. I had a very difficult time connecting with William, the MC—he was so intensely unlikable to me. I was not invested in him, and read to the halfway mark hoping that he was proved wrong in his beliefs. He was a cruel, stupid man who was clearly narcissistic and selfish and I was hard pressed to keep reading.

I am SO glad I stuck with it. The ending was worth the grumbling. This book has a really great plot, and once the ball gets rolling it’s fantastic. Very creepy, very intelligently presented—ghosts and specters, unbelievers and skeptics.

And then to find out it’s all based on actual historical events? Yes, I enjoyed it. The ending brought everything full circle, and although you may have an idea of where the story is headed, the ending is wonderful closure. AJ West did a great job crafting this story.

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This book is going to live rent free in my mind forever. It’s based on a true story about a spiritualist medium in the early 1900s and a professor who sets about to expose her as a fraud. What he finds instead is that maybe death is only the beginning and questions everything he’s believed in up to this point. ⁣

We get seances, the Titanic, WWI, cameos by Harry Houdini and Arthur Conan Doyle, plot twists galore… It’s sinister, it’s creepy, it’s enticing and haunting and I’m absolutely obsessed.⁣

What I loved most is that at no point did I have any idea what was going to happen next. William Jackson Crawford is such a dynamic character and I absolutely hated him in the best way possible. ⁣

The story is written in the literary style of the era it’s set in and that was an adjustment for me; however, the dialogue and imagery was so authentic and vivid that it was easy to become completely submersed. West does a fantastic job of reflecting the times for what they were and not romanticizing what life was like back then. I’ve never read a book and been compelled to research the historical facts the story was based on but my morbid curiosity was piqued. I found myself scouring google and wikipedia, exploring The Goligher Circle and Crawford’s works. I’ll be going on a deep dive of the author’s website as well to see what the descendants of these families had to say and I’m particularly interested in their opinion on how William Jackson Crawford has been portrayed (because he is literally horrible).⁣

I can’t wait to buy this book and add it to my shelf, it’s definitely one of my top reads for the year and will probably remain a favorite for years to come. I can’t wait for more of my mutuals to get their hands on it so I have people to talk about it with! Congrats to A.J. West on this enthralling debut.⁣

*I'm giving The Spirit Engineer 4.5 stars rounded up to 5

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It's turn of the century Belfast, Ireland, and engineering teacher William Crawford prides himself on being skeptical of everything. He's also a self-absorbed twerp who seems to be thoroughly unpleasant towards his beloved wife, his children, students, even his fellow teachers. When they lose a child, his wife Elizabeth connects with a family of spiritualists. She's also mourning the death of her brother, recently deceased in the sinking of the Titanic. But are the spiritualists legit or is it all a scam? William can't quite tell, but as he becomes convinced that they really are in touch with "the other side" he begins to promote them and becomes The Spirit Engineer, to global acclaim. But what if he has been duped after all?

An interesting twist on a ghost story, apparently based on a real incident, but I felt that A.J. West's writing style and characterization of Professor Crawford was so endlessly negative and dismissive that he became a caricature and thereby unbelievable. Which ruined the denouement at the end (which was all pretty obvious to this reader, at least).

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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.

This book has a very creepy and gothic feeling that keeps you reading, and on the edge of your toes. This is the perfect book for October if you read to the seasons or would also work very well curled up by an open fire! I thought this book was well written and the author really captured the era of the story.

This is a first for me by the author and one I enjoyed and would read more of their work. The book cover is eye-catching and appealing and would spark my interest if in a bookshop. Thank you very much to the author, publisher and Netgalley for this ARC.

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I requested this book from Netgalley purely based on the cover. I didn’t even read the blurb… so I only learned when it came to the acknoledgements that it is based on a true story. Which then again lead me to the author’s website and his interview with the descendants of both William and Kathleen, alongside a whole heap of research he has done for this book. Which only made me more intrigued by this fascinating story.

A reoccuring message throughout the book is Death is a beginning, and so we start the book of with William’s suicide. So we know the story isn’t going to end well… But it doesn’t spoil anything. Although we do get an inkling throughout the book as to the why, we are never certain of it till about 90% into the book. And it is still unclear as to why the real William killed himself (Arthur Conan Doyle actually speculates that it was his final big experiment regarding the realness of spiritualism).

Then we move back in time to his introduction to spiritualism. William isn’t a very nice person to begin with, but more in a realistic product of his time kind of way. (From the interview with his descendants I also understand that he probably had Asperger’s… which doesn’t necessarily make him an unlikeable person but does explain his obsessiveness). Starting as a true sceptic of spiritualism, and in need of money, he starts of a host of experiments to find out if these seances are real and the science behind them. We follow his grow in fame and decline into madness.

Now I need to put in some content warnings for the book. Like I said there is suicide on the page. There is also some sexual inappropriatness (with lack of a better word… It isn’t quite abuse but it is enough to make one feel quite uncomfortable), as well as talk of domestic violence.

The writing in this book is stunning. It is beautiful yet very effortless, and managed to suck me in right from the start. I can struggle with a short attention span (especially when reading on my phone), but had no problem reading this book for hours on end.

The atmosphere was spot on, with the the feeling of unease and minor hauntings slowly seeping in from the start, perfectly leading towards that very dramatic ending. And there is a good sense of its time as well, both in William’s ideas and his experiments, the treatment of women, the rise in interest in spiritualism around the first World War and the sinking of the Titanic.

I absolutely adored this book, which is a fascinating character study that just sucked me in right from the start. One I would highly recommend.

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The Spirit Engineer by A J West
Genre: Historical Fiction/Mystery & Thriller
Publisher: Duckworth Books
Publish Date: 07 October 2021

Star Rating 5/5

Historical Fiction is one of my favorite genres and I love discovering new people in history through it! In this book, we meet real-life Professor William Jackson Crawford (The Spirit Engineer) and real-life medium Kathleen Goligher. West tells their story in a compelling fictional story but like all the best Historic Fictions I ended up googling the real-life characters and felt disappointed there isn’t as much as I would like out in the World Wide Web which, makes me like this author's dedications more. True imagination and research through dusty archives must have been done.

The characters' interactions and dialogue were musical the atmosphere darkening and the journey of descent into madness perfect. It made me wonder at certain times who was sane and if I was… I loved the connection to the titanic and how West made me love and despise characters as the plot thickened. Unfortunately, I can't go into a rant without spilling spoilers but there was one character in particular that made my stomach churn with its selfishness and ego.

I am really interested in seeing what this author produced next, especially as this is a debut novel. I have my fingers secretly crossed that West turns his attention to Harry Houdini. I would love to read his take on him especially as the character appeared in this book, briefly, but with a large impression. I desperately hope Houdini is next!

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher, Duckworth Books, for an E-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

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Thank you to Duckworth Books via Netgalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

This will be the perfect read during the upcoming spooky season. With that being said, I struggled while reading it. I was waiting to get hooked but I never got to that point. Maybe I just wasn’t in the right headspace, because I usually love gothic, spooky fiction and other reviewers are raving about it! I struggled with the slow-burn and all the different characters and their roles/importance in the story and some of the first half felt like filler-pages; however, I really enjoyed the complex protagonist of William Jackson Crawford and his descent into madness and West’s elegant way of writing as well as his use of major historical events and cameos from famous characters that (finally) brought the story forward. The second half of the book was my favourite as it was fast-paced and kept me on guessing until the end.

I wasn’t aware of it being based on the true story of Crawford and Goligher when I read it (I rarely read the entire blurb) and I don’t know if that knowledge would’ve changed my feelings about it, but it definitely made me want to look it up myself!

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Belfast in interwar time. The Crawford family, the husband a professor of engineering, a wife and three children. So far, so normal. Domestic life, middle class with more status than money and plenty of social aspirations. But then we learn that the wife’s brother, by all accounts a wastrel, drowned with the Lusitania. Shortly after, the Crawford’s son dies. Enter the Goligher family with daughter Kathleen, a “genuine medium”. With Professor Crawford a scoffing sceptic and his wife desperately wanting spirits to exist, a delicious to-ing and fro-ing develops. But what if the staunch sceptic turns out to be superbly suited to be a medium himself?

Following the many deaths of soldiers in WW1 and with child mortality still high, these interwar years saw a surge in the belief in spritualism: to be once more in the albeit ephemeral presence of a loved one. And waiting in the wings were an army of fraudsters, ready to fleece gullible souls.
Indeed, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle makes an appearance in the book as a believer in spiritualism (who had been falling prey to the Cottingley Fairies hoax). He adresses Crawford: ‘The movement has been waiting a long time for a scientific mind such as yours, Professor,’ he said. ‘With your help, we shall light the fire of enthusiasm on the twin altars of imagination and knowledge. Then we might finally expose those sceptics and scoffers for the cretins they are.” Also present at this meeting is the famous escapologist Harry Houdini who was a pronounced sceptic. William Crawford may well have been based on the magician William S. Marriot, who met Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and was himself a master of metacognitive illusion.
An interesting concept, based on the real-life medium Kathleen Goligher, nestled cleverly in the dichotomy of scepticism and belief.

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oh my goodness, this is such a sweet book! i really really enjoyed this one! it is such a sweet and heartwarming book. please pick it up as soon as you can! thank you so much, net galley!!

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I received an early copy of this book in exchange for my independent honest review. Thank you.
Firstly the cover and the blurb totally draws you in. I could not wait to read this gothic debut. I find it a difficult one to review though.
It is set in Edwardian Belfast, shortly after the First World war and the Titanic disaster. Society are looking for answers,many grief stricken and wanting to believe their loved ones have moved on to a better place. Spiritualism has never been more popular, a place of comfort or a place where the vulnerable are taken advantage of?
William our main protagonist is a man of science, who is very much absorbed in his own academic world and forever searching for acclaim in his work. This leaves little time for normal family life. He comes across as cold towards his wife and children, he doesn't know how to relate to them. His scientific and atmospheric mind gets in the way of normal everyday life. I did feel sorry for his wife and children. As he finds success by proving The afterlife does exist, he becomes more self absorbed and even more unlikable.
The writing style soon draws you in. It is very atmospheric and the tension the author builds, especially during the 'seances' and spiritual experiments is explosive. However for me it started to feel a little overdone and far fetched in places. One could argue this did put the question to mind is this all real or just a scam?
The experiments were a little drawn out and I found my attention wavering a little at times. Then suddenly comes the twist and the tension soars again. For me, the reveal left me with more questions than answers.
There is no doubt this is an excellent debut and this author can create atmosphere and tension. Perfect for Halloween. I didn't feel the hype quite as much as everyone else. That said I cannot wait to see what this author has in store next!

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The Spirit Engineer is a cracking gothic thriller, tense, at times creepy and quite convincing in the dynamic of the central characters - as unlikeable and potentially untrustworthy as they appear!
Crawford is particularly fascinating - his self-centred belief in his own importance and discoveries make him intensely unlikeable but compelling.

Great autumnal reading.

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{4.5 stars}

"Oh, Darwin, Darwin, Darwin,' said Stoupe. 'The very enemy of magic himself. Very well then, perhaps not butterflies but even Mr Darwin would struggle to explain where we go when we die. He might be up there now, in fact, sitting on a wooly mammoth and thinking himself a perfect clown."


This book intrigued me with the concept but blew me away with the execution. William is an engineering professor who is frustrated by his wife's belief in communicating with spirits. She lost her brother in the sinking of the Titanic and he finds out she's been secretly attending seances to try to contact him. When the family is rocked by another tragedy, William decides to throw his scientific efforts into determining if the seances are real or just a hoax. His work becomes famous as he begins to believe that communing with spirits just may be real. His passion grows into a frenzy and he is shaken when he meets none other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini who don't think his experiments are as clean as he thinks. From there we follow his descent into madness as he is haunted by these spirits and whether they are real or not.

There were definitely moments along the way that I wondered where things were going and whether I would like that direction but I was equally intrigued by what William was experiencing and wanted to figure it out. I loved the scientific approach to his experiments and how we were along for the ride with him through each trial. I did figure out one of the twists but the other one gobsmacked me. I loved the ending, the last quarter was just perfectly done.

This one is a perfect creepy read for spooky season. I especially loved the fact that this was based on a true story, so it felt like while I was entertained I was learning a fun piece of history.

Thanks to Netgalley for a copy. All opinions above are my own.

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I had high hopes for this debut novel, and it did not, in any way, disappoint. A gripping page turner that drew me in from page one and did not let me go until it finished. I look forward to reading more from this author, i am a firm fan

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Just finished reading this book at 2am - I just had to keep reading!

In the early 20th Century there was a craze for spiritualism, made all the more intense by the horrendous losses of the second world war. And society was divided - some people wanted desperately to believe, others called the mediums charlatans and dedicated themselves to unmasking them, And then there's William Jackson Crawford, the Spirit Engineer - who started out as a man of science, wanting to debunk local medium Kathleen Goligher, and then began to search for a scientific proof of the spirit world.

Let's start with the elephant in the room. The main character, William Jackson Crawford, is not your classic hero. He's vain, weak, prissy and misogynistic. But that's kind of the point - it's his vanity and weakness that leads him to follow the path he does and I found it fascinating and entertaining to explore the world through his eyes. I was also hooked by AJ West's brilliant atmosphere building - the creepiness of the seances, William's torment. His writing takes us completely and utterly into another place and another time and gave me goose-pimples. Recommended!

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When engineering professor William Crawford discovers his wife has been attending seances under the guide of attending church meetings, he is determined to prove the seances are fake. Crawford spares no expense in his research and abides by the sentiment that “the ends justify the means.”
Aside from the blatant disregard for fellow human welfare, The Spirit Engineer is an enjoyable, dip-your-toes-into-the-spooky-season read. Really got me in the mood for fall and Halloween!

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This is a wonderfully atmospheric piece of historical fiction about a Professor of engineering who becomes involved in debunking a family that deals in seances. Creepy and Gothic with some flashes of wit but also deeply touching and thought provoking. Recommended.

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If you are looking for a spooky, historical, and wonderfully immersive read- then look no further. We follow a skeptical professor of engineering as he takes a spiritual journey to find answers regarding odd events that are taking place within his house. While I found the professor to be extremely unlikable, I also felt that the writer did an amazing job helping the reader get into the head of what seems like a narcissistic and selfish character. We follow his journey to scientifically prove that the odd events are easily explainable, but along the way find out things may not be what they seem! I honestly was shocked many times throughout the book and felt the ending was a perfect ending to a cozy and haunting read!

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an advanced reader's copy.

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The Spirit Engineer is a spooky, thrilling read that will have you looking over your shoulders as you read. it has me hooked from the first page and I loved the style of writing. I loved all the characters and the writing was flawless. This is a brilliant debut novel set in Belfast and the descriptions take you right back to that era. I wasn't aware going into this book that it was based on a true story. The story pace was perfect and I found myself turning the pages well into the early hours. I couldn't put it down. I will be recommending it to everyone.

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Special thank you to NetGalley and Duckworth Books for the ARC of The Spirit Engineer by A.J. West!

Taking place in Belfast in the years following the tragedy of the sinking of the Titanic, The Spirit Engineer takes you on a full circle journey of coming to terms with your internal struggle and the concept of karma with a side of paranormal activity. The story starts a bit slow, trying to really get the characters current states ingrained into your mental vision. Although it was a little slower in the beginning, I was really able to picture this completely in my mind with the descriptions of locations and even scents in addition to characters.

As you read, you are taken on a mental rollercoaster as you try to figure out who you should be feeling empathy towards. It brings a lot of topics to the table: from grief and mental health to notions of mans place over women’s in society to poverty and greed.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It was a great book to kickoff my autumn with the weather cooling down and having darker and rainy days to complete the ambience. This book really makes you question what’s real and what’s not and how far you’d go to answer just that. But what would you do once you found out? What if you weren’t happy with the answers you found?

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Kicked off my Halloween reading with this little beauty! I've seen the hype and knew I had to get my hands on a copy. It didn't disappoint at all. I've read so many seance related books that kind of always go down the same route and I was a little apprehensive that this was going to be a typical 'knock three times' book but it really wasn't. It was so much more. The ending was spectacular, so much so that I had to reread it to really soak it up. Also, whoever compared William Crawford to George Banks from Mary Poppins has nailed it. That's exactly how I saw him throughout the book. Fantastic.

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this was a wonderfully done gothic novel, this was a great story with interesting characters. It was a fun read that I appreciated was based on a true story.

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This is really just kind of … unpleasant. Not necessarily in a bad way, but I did find it hard to get through. Especially when I discovered it was based on a real person, whose history is semi-lost, given his suicide and his final role as the ultimate dupe. The Spirit Engineer is, of course, a fictionalisation—though one whose genre is as ambiguous as its characters.

We meet the protagonist, William Jackson Crawford, about to kill himself in Belfast. The book then takes us to the events preceding this: Crawford’s troubled family life, his burgeoning (though ill-remunerated) career, the death of his wife’s brother and his son, and finally his involvement Golighers, particularly the sixteen-year-old medium Kathleen Goligher. Crawford, apparently convinced by Kathleen’s command of various psychic phenomenon, begins a scientific investigation into her … um. Abilities? In the book, he ultimately realises how completely he has been defrauded, not just by the Golighers but by those in his life, as well as the depths of his own various traumas, and does a suicide. Although as far as I can tell his extant letters on the subject only re-affirm his convictions:

“I have been struck down mentally. I was perfectly alright up to a few weeks ago… It is not the psychic work. I enjoyed it too well. I’m thankful to say that work will stand. It is too thoroughly done for any material loopholes to be left.”

I’m honestly having trouble processing a lot of this, partly I think because the whole spiritualism thing is beyond gross, and sadly is not an exploitation of the vulnerable restricted to the Victorians. And, obviously, that’s not the fault of the book. But I did read it in a profound state of permanent flinch. In case, one of the strengths of The Spirit Engineer, as a careful fictionalisation, is that it can, perhaps, be more generous than reality perhaps allows. Not just to its terribly flawed, terribly damaged protagonist, but to the people around him who are, in their own ways, just as exploited as he is: by poverty, by gender, by sexuality, by age, by class, by their own losses. Kathleen, possibly, gets off more lightly than she deserves, given what she does, but it also feels like the right call, given the fact she’s a young woman from a lower class family with very few other prospects that weren’t sex work (there’s also some suggestion, as far as I can tell, from the details of Crawford’s ‘research’ that he might have sexually abused her—he was certainly very interested in ectoplasm from her vagina).

In any case, it’s just a sad-feeling book in many respects. But it’s also a masterclass in atmosphere, unreliable narration, limited perspective, deft characterisation, quiet horror and slow-building tension. There’s a weight of terrible inevitability to the final denouement, the revelations losing none of their power despite the fact they should have been obvious throughout.

I can’t say I enjoyed reading this—it is just too grim—but I admired it very, very much.

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If you're looking for some spooky fiction to read this Autumn then this is the book for you. It's eerie and atmospheric and just the thing to give you the shivers.

The tale is based on the real life story of scientist William Jackson Crawford and medium Kathleen Goligher. William is challenged to conduct experiments to find out if Kathleen is the real deal or if the spirits are all smoke and mirrors trickery. His search for the truth becomes an obsession and ends in disastrous consequences. I don't want to give away too much of the plot though.

I was captivated by the story and the writing is beautiful. The chapters are short so it feels like a fast paced read which I like. We only hear William's POV and he's quite a character, not always likeable I must say. There are quite a few twists and turns to keep you guessing too.

This story is really well written, extremely well researched and I can't believe it's the authors debut novel. Would definitely recommend this book to everyone

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Lots of twists and turns with excellent writing. This book was very frightening for me all the way through it. I had a hard time finishing it.

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I’d anticipated this book for a couple of months having been told by my BookTwitter Squad that it was going to be a fantastic read. It certainly was, and even more than that, it was surprising too. Our setting is the city of Belfast, the Titanic sinking is still fresh in everyone’s minds. It’s especially fresh at Professor William Crawford’s house since his brother-in-law Arthur was on the ship. Crawford is our narrator and he introduces us to his happy, but chaotic household as the novel opens. He is a man of science, working at an institute both furthering scientific enquiry and teaching the next generation of engineers. He’s a sceptic, so when he finds out that his wife is visiting a medium and has been trying to contact her brother Arthur, he’s shocked and angry. There’s no question that this girl is a fraud, stringing his wife along with a show put on with the help of her shady family. Yet, the couple have lost their son Robert and Crawford’s grief is overwhelming. So when he hears Robert’s voice calling to him alongside an angry, vengeful Arthur who blames Crawford for his death, a small crack grows in his scepticism. What if he were to apply his scientific rigour to to this girl medium’s powers? If he could prove a link exists between this world and the next he could make a name for himself, not just in Ireland but all over the world.

I found the tone of the book quite unique and fresh. We see Crawford’s world through his eyes and this gives us a chance to really know him. I loved that he had petty work grievances and rivalries. His pomposity and stuffiness could get him into scrapes with other people who don’t understand his Edwardian Sheldon Cooper tendencies. At home his need for routine and things done a certain way is met with a certain amount of fond irritation. The children tend to break through the veneer of grumpiness and when a mysterious new maid appears, she seems to know him so well and has what he needs ready before he even misses it. I loved comic little scenes like the undignified moving of naked statues at the institute. When chosen for a special job before an important dinner, Crawford’s self-importance starts to show itself. His disgust when he finds out he’s just a removal man is so funny, a situation that’s made worsened when family patron Aunt Adelia accuses him of manhandling a naked woman at an upstairs window. Sometimes it’s the author’s description of a character, as seen by Crawford, that raises a smile. Crawford’s colleague Stoupe is described as:

‘Damn it, there was no escape, and no creature on earth moves so quickly as an irritating man. He danced over the tiles towards me, grinning, all arms and sweat, dressed preposterously in a baggy velvet suit, pursing his lips like a kissing pig. He gave a courtly bow before standing far too near, smelling of lavender, whisky and damp, short tufts of blonde hair.’

There are other sections of the book where his privileged position as a white, middle-class man of some scientific standing, gives him so much power he starts to abuse it. One section that I found really disturbing was his insistence that the medium, Miss Goligher, prove her gift is genuine by submitting to different tests and examinations. He forces Rose, their maid, to cavity search the unfortunate girl in an enormous abuse of power. There is also the burning of his son Robert’s comfort blanket which felt particularly cruel. The seance scenes are intense and confusing. At one point attendees are tied up and blindfolded as per Crawford’s instructions, but he still finds it difficult to understand what exactly is going on. In America, a meeting with Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini show the circles he’s starting to travel in. They add authenticity to the period and subject matter, because in real life, both men were fascinated with phenomena like mesmerism and mediumship. As an aside, Conan Doyle was famously taken in by two small children who claim to have photographed fairies in their garden, so his eagerness to see proof of mediumship and his note of caution are consistent with his experience. What I loved more than anything was the author’s ability to surprise, because as we neared the end I had no idea how the book and Crawford’s investigations would conclude. The theme of dishonesty is there right from the start, in Arthur’s reasons for being on Titanic, to the hidden note from their old maid who left in a hurry, and Elizabeth’s absence at weekly church meetings. By the end I felt triple bluffed, but couldn’t help smiling at how clever the author had been. As many of our characters find out, when it comes to being dishonest, the person we deceive most often is ourselves.

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The Spirit Engineer was an annoying read in that I spent pretty much the whole book knowing which star rating I was going to give it (3 stars), only to have everything turn on its head by a superb ending which made it worthy of an additional star!

We’ll start with the 3-star elements – firstly that I found the whole book far too slowly paced. It became very repetitive in places and the first half dragged considerably. I would usually assume that books are slow because they are spending time on character-building, but I never really felt I got to know or empathised with any of the characters which is perhaps another reason I found it hard to engage in. There are also several time-jumps which also made it hard to tie yourself as a reader into the narrative.

Although I loved the idea of a skeptic trying to prove a medium and her séances fraudulent I found it difficult to picture the scenes and they were quite chaotically written. I also didn’t really understand the need to try and wedge in Sir Arthur Canon Doyle and Harry Houdini into the narrative – it seemed a bit of a gimmick rather than a necessity of the plot.

Without giving anything away the ending is brilliant and I truly did not see it coming. Huge props to AJ West for turning the story completely on its head and if you can power your way through the first half, the pay off is certainly worth it in the end, I promise!

Overall, The Spirit Engineer has a fantastic ending, it just takes a bit of effort to power through the first half of the book to get there! Thank you to NetGalley & Duckworth Books for the chance to read the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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Thank you to Netgalley and the author for allowing me to read this!

I was instantly intrigued by the synopsis of this book. This book instantly drew me in. I really enjoyed this book and the plot. This author did amazing. I loved the writing style.

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The Spirit Engineer is an interesting book considering it is based off a real person. This book is definitely a book suited for the spooky season. It is haunting and makes you question. The characters were interesting and the way they interacted with the world was perfect for them.

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If I had known this book was going to be this good, I wouldn't have waited so long to read it. I find the whole Spiritualism movement fascinating and this story was yet another chance to delve into that world.

A brief synopsis: an engineering professor is exposed to the world of seances through his wife. At first entirely skeptical, his opinion changes rapidly when spectral voices speak to him, telling secrets only he could know. From that point, backed by financial supporters, he sets out not to disprove the claims of Spiritualism, but to PROVE that all the occurrences within the seance room are otherworldly and not produced by any human scheming. He quickly becomes famous for his experiments and published findings, and the events of the seances become more and more bizarre as his fame spreads and grows until that awful moment when everything comes crashing down around him.

The writing in this book, especially the second half, is so immersive that at one point I looked up from my reading and realized I had no idea where my children were or how long had passed since I last saw them (they were fine).

The story is told in first person, and our protagonist proves himself first as an extremely unlikable person, and eventually as an unreliable narrator. His own logical mind turns to madness in the end, and a time comes when the reader asks themselves just how many people he's going to take down with him.

Based on real life events, this tale takes the lives of Professor William Jackson Crawford and Spiritualist medium Kathleen Goligher and fictionalizes them, playing loose with facts in the end but making for an absorbing and fascinating story that grabbed my attention and didn't let go until the last word was read.

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WOW, WOW, WOW, If you like a good creepy read that will make the hairs on your neck stand on end, or just a good creepy read to go with the time of the year then grab a copy of this excellent book now. For A.J.West’s debut novel this is brilliant I was gripped from the start.

Based in some truth of the life of William Jackson Crawford and his scientific look into the young medium Kathleen Goligher. Narrated throughout by William who is a gentleman, an academic and a scientist, with dreams of one day being famous for his scientific research. He is married to Elizabeth, and they have three children two girls and a son Robert. Money is tight and they are helped out by a benefactor Aunt Adelie, although she is not keen on William she supports Elizabeth. As the story begins it is July 1920 William is sat looking out to see as he remembers some promising words: Death is just the beginning. We then jump back to 1914 Belfast, two years after the sinking of the Titanic and with war on the horizon.

When their housemaid Hazel, seems to suddenly up and leave the family William is bewildered as to why she has left them. Until he finds a letter that she had written to Elizabeth that is a little cryptic and could be read in different ways, William wants to know what Hazel had meant. Before long they have a new housemaid a mute Rose, but where did she come from? William believes his wife has been attending church one evening a week until someone asks why they haven’t seen her for a while. This makes William wonder where his wife has been disappearing to each week, so follows her, to a rough part of the docks. As William looks up at the building his wife has entered he sees a young girl looking down on him,he later discovers this to be the young Kathleen Goligher. What is his wife doing here? Elizabeth’s brother had died on the Titanic, and she is desperate to contact him, but William believes this to be nothing but a load of nonsense and people trying to make money out of another persons loss. As the story progresses. William finds himself challenged to prove through his scientific mind that it is not possible to talk to the dead. The money would come in handy and he takes on the challenge. It’s here that the reader is drawn more into the goings on. As William looks at every possible thing he can think of to prove whether this is genuine or not. But what will his findings prove. As he becomes known as The Spirit Engineer. With meetings with the likes of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini.

I love how even though this is a creepy sort of read there is some brilliantly added humour, with great one liners. You will be chuckling one minute, crying the next, and then jumping at every creak or groan you here. I think .A.J.West has done a great job of telling this story, making it engaging. With a number of three dimensional characters some you will love some you won’t. But if this is you kind of read then definitely grab a copy now. Perfect for a Halloween read.

I would like to thank #netgalley and #duckworthbooks for an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest, fair and unbiased review. An absolute gem of a book.

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This book was an absolute joy to read from start to finish. A.J has the ability to weave a fascinating plot with witty dialogue and compelling characters. Based on a true story, this is a remarkably clever novel that provides the reader with a clear sense of setting. I would highly recommend this to anyone and look forward to reading more of the author's work. Thank you to the publishers and net galley for the chance to be an early reader.

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Firstly, I was attracted to this book because of its title and cover. The title conjured up many possibilities, and I needed to know more. My decision to read was sealed by the blurb. I have had an interest in ghosts and spiritualism since my teens, so I’m always keen to read novels based around this theme and what better time to read this than in October and the run up to Halloween.
Prof Crawford is an engineer lecturer at a prestige college and the tone of the novel reflects his scientific nature as he uses his knowledge to debunk the possibility of the after life. The ghostly elements begin from the start and increase with the tension to an unforgettable climax. Based around the first world war when interest in the paranormal and communication of spirits flourished, it offers an intriguing insight into the phenomenon and history of the spiritualist movement. Throughout I was on edge wondering what was real or not, urging him to discover the truth behind the eerie voices and seances. Whether he does, I’m not saying – you’ll have to read it yourself, but it is a dark tale of obsession, fear, science and guilt.
With a cast of memorable, and well-developed characters, I was sucked into the mystery and would have read it in one sitting if I could.
I was delighted to see further illustrations in the book, tempting me to add a physical copy to cherish when released.

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This book first caught my eye on FB because of the cover and it was being promoted by one of my favorite authors - even though she's promoting her own new book - Patricia Cornwell! This story is based around "historical facts" that had me hooked and guessing about what's going on with William until the end.

Margaret sniffed and suggested, "You ae a Professor of Engineering, Father; you shouldn't forget it.' William Jackson Crawford' she said .. with the disinterest of any genius tasked with the mundane, 'The Spirit Engineer.'

Adelia swished over, 'Professor Crawford always brings a certain je ne sais quoi to any event he attends. It is quite thrilling;'

Adelia gave an exasperated sigh. 'Honestly you men; overestimating your minds, completely disregarding your souls. I should not be surprised if Paradise were completely female."

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.

Thanks to NetGalley, the publisher Duckworth Books and of course the author, for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. Release date is October 7, 2021.

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Surprise!! This is what I felt after reading it. A complete surprise package that I enjoyed.

This debut novel is based on true story and the research that went into writing this is commendable. Hats off to the author for going way beyond to get this story. This book made me read many articles of history related to supernatural activities, with also visiting the author's website to learn more about his findings.

This story is dark with heavy scenes which are balanced with a great sense of humor. Being written in four parts, this book takes us through the journey of William Jackson Crawford. The forth part was absolutely crazy and my favourite. William Crawford was a complicated man, a man of science but that changes when he meets the Golighers specially the medium Kathleen Goligher.

The writing is easy, fast paced and brilliant. There was so many emotions to the story with great character development, twists and turns and a thrill to keep you going. The ending was totally unexpected for me. If you plan to read this book do visit the author's website to know about his research, do it after the book. I won't say more in fear of giving away much. This is a great read for spooky nights, definitely recommending it.

Thank you Netgalley, A.J. West and Duckworth Books for a chance to read this.

☠️ Rating ~ 4🌟

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This is such a beautifully written book that completely captivated me from the very beginning. It is a gothic, historical fiction based on the life of William Jackson Crawford, a man of science who becomes ever more drawn into the world of spiritualism and seances. Over six years, he researches the famed spiritualist, Kathleen Goligher. The notoriety his work brings earns him the name The Spirit Engineer.

This book is a perfect example of why historical fiction is my favourite genre. It is absolutely full of chilling, edge-of your-seat creepy moments and witty lines. However it is West’s incredible ability to make you empathise with the flawed and complex cast of characters, especially William, that is the reason why this book will stay with me for a long time. This is a brilliant gothic tale, but it gives so much more. The vulnerability created by grief, the role of women in society and mental health at this time are all explored too, creating such depth to this tale.

This is such a great debut, and I can’t wait to see what AJ West writes next.

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Princess Fuzzypants here: This is an atmospheric, well constructed gothic story. Although it is set in the years around WWI, it had the feel of a Victorian drama. It is actually based on a real story with real people. Our protagonist and narrator is a professor of engineering. He is an ambitious, misogynistic man full of hubris. His high opinion of his talents do not always win him the accolades he feels he so justly deserves. It affects both his professional and personal life. That personal life seems to be tearing apart.

There are strange goings on in his home. He discovers a cryptic letter after a maid suddenly quits. His wife is conferring with a spiritualist, affected by the deaths of her brother and her young son. William thinks it is all hogwash. He is a man of science and determined to discover how the tricks are played by the medium and her family. Through experiments, rather than being vindicated, he is convinced that the seances are true. He is so convinced that he calls himself the Spirit Engineer as he validates the authenticity around the world.

It is not until he is confronted by no less auspicious characters as Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini that he question his findings. Once he has twigged to the truth, he begins a long spiral downwards, partly predicated by his ego and fear of being mocked. What he is not prepared to find is the truth behind all of it. It is shattering for both William, his family and the reader. Very adeptly constructed, we join William in his journey into the abyss. It is a true page turner..

I do, however, have one major complaint in an otherwise wonderful story. In 1914, long before women had the vote let alone any sense of equality, they would have been addressed in polite society as either Miss, if unmarried, or Mrs. if married. Some careers, regardless of marital status earned the women the title of Mrs. Ms, a modern invention from the women’s movement of the 1960s and 70s, was not known, let alone used by someone such as William. Egregious errors such as this break the spell of the story and cause me to give it four and a half purrs, rather than five and two paws up.

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My thanks to #Netgally and #Duckworth publishing for the opportunity to read this book.
Loved it, I enjoyed every creepy moment especially seeing as it was based on a true story and includes Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini.
It became more gripping as the book progressed and I thought I had things figured out but wasn’t expecting the ending.
A must read especially for the spooky season.

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My thanks to Duckworth Books for an eARC via NetGalley of ‘The Spirit Engineer’ by A.J. West in exchange for an honest review. It is a work of historical fiction that explores the subject of spiritualism during the Edwardian period through the experiences of a troubled man.

1914. Two years following the sinking of the Titanic, Belfast high society has become obsessed with spiritualism as many seek to reach their departed through séances. With the start of the Great War, there are even more families seeking comfort.

William Jackson Crawford is a man of science and a sceptic. He reluctantly joins his grieving wife at a seance led by famed medium Kathleen Goligher. When he experiences voices seemingly from beyond the veil, it creates doubt in his heart and plants a seed of obsession. Over the following six years he continue