The Witch of Lime Street is a nonfiction work all about spiritualism, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini. Jahr chronicles the unlikely pair’s complex relationship with both spiritualism and one another. In particular, it focuses on times surrounding the Scientific American‘s search to prove whether or not spirits, ectoplasm, and the whole shebang are real and measurable by scientific standards.
The story is an interesting one, with the two at times opposed and working together. I hadn’t realized at first that either had been heavily involved in the spiritualist movement in any capacity. Finding out that the ever rational Doyle was in fact a devout spiritualist was a bit surprising, less so to find that Houdini played a demysticizing role in the movement.
The storytelling style is friendly, it doesn’t get bogged down in scientific or overly historical jargon. The problem, I found, was that the story goes a bit too into detail. As a result, the story feels as though it flounders. It drags a lot.
Similarly, it feels like it lacks focus. It gets to its namesake (The Witch of Lime Street) after more than 200 pages, and even after that the story isn’t really about her. It just seemed a bit lackluster.
I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review