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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0061097497, Mass Market Paperback)Barbara Michaels (who also writes as Mystery Grandmaster Elizabeth Peters) is known for cozy romantic suspense, but Other Worlds is indeed another world of fiction for her. Set "outside time and space, in the realm of the imagination," the book is an all-star team meeting among several of the most famous dabblers in the world of the occult. These include American magician Harry Houdini, Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle, Nandor Fodor (former director of the International Institute for Psychical Research), Frank Podmore of the Society for Psychical Research, and a few other guests over two nights. Michaels establishes the purpose of their gathering in a brief opening passage, an exchange between Doyle and Podmore: "During our evenings together we enjoy a busman's holiday, applying our combined expertise to the investigation of famous cases that have never been satisfactorily explained. Sometimes we agree on a solution; more often we agree to disagree." On the two evening meetings recorded in this volume, the group addresses two ghost tales. The first narrative is of the Bell Witch, a ghost that haunted the Bell family for several years in 19th-century Tennessee. The second details the 1850 invasion of the Phelps family of Stratford, Connecticut, by demonic forces. In both cases, the story is followed by the commentaries of the guests, as each of them tries to explain away or justify the occult elements.
The collection has merit as a diversion for fans of classic ghost tales, and it has much the flavor of Poe and Hawthorne's stories of the supernatural. But, ultimately, the two narratives do not hold up well in their frame. Since, from the start, Michaels declares that the meetings among Houdini et al. are to be regarded as imaginary, much of the suspense is lost; then, the format (a story followed by analysis and criticism) undermines the suspense further as the reader witnesses the plot being pulled apart and rewritten by her various narrators. Fans of Michaels's other work may be disappointed by the lack of romance here, too (though Betsy Bell's ill-fated first love is a centerpiece of the Bell Witch tale). Nonetheless, Michaels's experiment in ghost narratives is an interesting one, and it is a pleasure to watch her assume the voices of these famous male figures in their antiquated, smoke-filled, gentleman's club of dreams. --Patrick O'Kelley
(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:47:48 -0400)
A conference of specialists on the occult is convened to analyze two 19th century ghost hauntings, one in Tennessee, the other in Connecticut. Attended by such experts as Harry Houdini and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the conference attempts to arrive at an explanation. By the author of The Dancing Floor.
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