Book Reviews

Book Review: The Spirit Engineer

The Spirit Engineer

By A.J. West

Published 2021

336 Pages

Belfast – 1914. Spiritualism is sweeping the city, especially with the loss of the Titanic two years prior.  But Engineering Professor William Jackson Crawford has no time for such superstitious nonsense.  After all, he is a man of science on the rise in his chosen profession.  Until one evening when he follows his wife, fearing she is having an affair, to the home of the Goligher family and stumbles upon a seance.  While his mind tells him the seance is all trickery and hocus pocus, he can’t quite dismiss the voice of his dead son and mother that called to him in that poorly lit attic.

Eventually, William is hired to investigate the medium, Kathleen Goligher, and prove or disprove the existence of spirits.  Through years of investigation, the Spirit Engineer is drawn deeper and deeper into the world of psychical phenomenon, becoming internationally famous and rubbing elbows with the likes of Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini.  However, when public opinion starts to call him a fraud and a hoax, he must prove once and for all that the spirits, and the medium’s abilities, are real.

There’s a lot to unpack about this novel.  First, I’m drawn to unreliable narrators and not only is this one deliciously unreliable, William Crawford proves that an arrogant asshole doesn’t have to be unlikable.  I suppose his arrogance might not be that bad for his time, but wow, I was often astounded at his thought process.  And I loved it, because he was believable and the author didn’t pull any punches with his character.   He was fully fleshed out, warts and all.

The gothic atmosphere and historic details are wonderful and the pacing is great.  Despite the fact the prologue gives the ending, this novel was about the journey, not the destination.

Throughout most of the book I had a firm four stars in mind, until the author threw in a plot twist worthy of Chuck Palahniuk or Dennis Lehane.   Add to that, I hopped over to the author’s website and found out the novel is based on a true story.  Reading through the research, it’s obvious where fictional license was taken and applauded the deftly woven story all the more.  (Yes, I am aware that most blurbs for this book mention it’s based on a true story, but I prefer to know as little about the book as possible before I read it.  So, I missed that bit.)

I believe I’m setting a new record for five star reviews in a row, but I do have to hand this one five stars.  

To remain transparent, this was an advanced reader copy and frankly, it’s setting the ARC bar pretty high.  

Until next time, thank you for visiting.

My rating system:

5 stars – Wow, I could not stop thinking about this book and/or I wish I’d writtn it.

4 stars – This was an awesome novel, I’d recommend it to friends.

3 stars – This was a good novel, I will look for more by this author.

2 stars – An okay novel, but I probably won’t look for anything else by the author.


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