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The Man from Beyondby Gabriel Brownstein
Synopses & Reviews
It is April 1922. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle arrives in New York on a spiritualist crusade. To packed houses at Carnegie Hall, he displays photographs of ghosts and spirits; of female mediums bound and gagged, ectoplasmic goo emerging from their bodies. In the newspapers, he defends the powers of the mysterious Margery, one of the most famous mediums of the day. His good friend Harry Houdini is a skeptic, and when Doyle claims Margery's powers are superior to Houdini's, the magician goes on the attack. Into this mix of spirit-chasing celebrities enters Molly Goodman, a young reporter whose job is to cover the heated debate. As she wanders into this world of spooks and spirits, murder and criminal frauds, Molly discovers herself; her true love, her place in the world — even her relationship to her beloved dead brother, Carl.
"Inspired by the complex relationship between Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the celebrated author and champion of spiritualism, and Harry Houdini, the famed magician and escape artist, Brownstein's uneven first novel reimagines the consequences of the sance, held in 1922 after a chance meeting on the New Jersey shore, in which the spirit-writing Lady Doyle delivered a message from Houdini's late mother to her skeptical son. While the author does a good job of getting inside the heads of his two historical protagonists with their opposing philosophies, much of the story focuses on the admirable but less interesting 22-year-old Molly Goodman, an intrepid reporter who follows the two great men's activities. In a vivid scene, after Houdini barely escapes from a locked box under the Hudson far down river from where he was supposed to emerge, he realizes that, like Sherlock Holmes after surviving his struggle with Professor Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls, everyone believes he's dead. After this delicious twist, however, the story rushes to a hasty climax involving an insufficiently developed villain. Brownstein's story collection, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Apt. 3W (2002), won the PEN/Hemingway Award. Agent, Paul Cirone at the Aaron Priest Agency. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"A shivery delight." Booklist (Starred Review)
"[A] well-paced and gripping novel..." Library Journal
"The writing is good, but there's quite a lot that doesn't come together." Kirkus Reviews
"In this cunning novel, spirit and body escape their shackles, trade places, and dance — while we read on, delighted." Andrea Barrett, author of Ship Fever: Stories
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle arrives in New York on a spiritualist crusade, defending the powers of the mysterious medium Margery. His good friend Harry Houdini is a skeptic, and when Doyle claims Margery's powers are superior to Houdini's, the magician goes on the attack.
From the winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award, a debut novel featuring Harry Houdini and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
About the Author
Gabriel Brownstein won the PEN/Hemingway Award for his collection The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Apt. 3W. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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