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Through a Glass, Darkly: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the Quest to Solve the Greatest Mystery of All Time

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3.86  ·  Rating details ·  78 ratings  ·  26 reviews
2018 ASJA Award-Winner in the Biography/History Category



Is it possible to make direct contact with the dead? Do the departed seek to make contact with us? The conviction that both things are true was the cornerstone of spiritualism, a kind of do-it-yourself religion that swept the Western world from the 1850s to the 1930s. Prominent artists and poets, prime ministers and s
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Hardcover, 320 pages
Published June 13th 2017 by St. Martin's Press
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Average rating 3.86  · 
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Glen
Aug 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
I won this book in a goodreads drawing.

This examination of the Spiritualism movement and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's part in it makes one grievous error. It makes the mistake that the spiritualism is dead. To be sure, the movement has changed quite a bit from the nineteenth century, but anybody who has ever heard Coast to Coast AM knows that spiritualism is alive and well.

Doyle tried to use a scientific approach to study what happens after death. People still do this today, but the author seems to
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Rennie
Sep 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini were frenemies, clashing over Conan Doyle's fervent embrace of the spiritualism fad and Houdini's healthy skepticism for the same. It is every bit as hilarious as you'd imagine, right down to the peer-reviewed journal ad calling someone (the future father of parapsychology, no less) an "ASS". That was Conan Doyle's work, by the way. Houdini was more likely to don a disguise and try to oust fraudulent mediums and seance-doers by spotting their sleight of h ...more
Terri
Mar 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Arthur Conan Doyle is best known for Sherlock Holmes. that said, he was a fascinating man who wanted to believe in the paranormal. He was a leading figure in the Spiritualism movement. This book is about that as well as the movement's highs and Lows and his feud with Houdini over the whole thing. Excellent read
Amanda
May 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
It was not true, as many people...said of [Conan Doyle], that his interest in spiritualism began after the death of his son Kingsley, in 1918. It had in fact begun decades earlier, as a young man in his twenties, with General Drayson's table-tipping experiments, his own vast reading, and his own direct experience with mediums and seances.

Even though Arthur Conan Doyle started out as a rational man of science to someone open to the possibilities of psychic phenomena."For Doyle, the accumulation o
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Dawn
Jul 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: giveaways
I received a copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway.

The book is well-written as whole, but as other reviewers have noted, it just doesn't contribute anything fresh. The author explores Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's rather naive adherence to spiritualism and its irony in the context of his day job as the author of the Sherlock Holmes series. Readers who enjoyed "The Witch of Lime Street", those interested in the spiritualism movement, and/or those who are interested in the life of Doyle will likely
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Ronnie Cramer
Aug 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating amalgam of history, biography, and ghost story that should appeal to skeptics and believers alike. The book 'aspires to be a jolly romp' (rather than a scholarly treatise) and succeeds.
Meghan Davis strader
Mar 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Religion, literature, seances, politics...it has it all!! The authors do a fantastic job in making a history book read like a thriller. Highly recommend!
John
Jun 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I found "Through a Glass, Darkly" to be a fascinating, very well written, researched and an intriguing book that I really enjoyed and I would recommend to anyone. It was a real page turner and hard to put down. I won this great book on GoodReads and like I do with most my wins I will be paying it forward by giving my win either to a friend or library to enjoy.


Gwen
Aug 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
How on earth did Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of the ultra-logical Sherlock Holmes, become so sure that it's possible to communicate with people who have passed on? Easy. From Doyle's perspective, spiritism is also very logical (but you'll have to read the book to find out how). I was very touched by the idea that Doyle's main goal in convincing the world that it's real was to make everyone feel better. A new kind of religion is what he was hoping to establish - one that was ultimately reassu ...more
Karen
Apr 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Through a Glass Darkly: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the Quest to Solve the Greatest Mystery of All Time is an eventful walk through the life and times of the man who is best known for his character Sherlock Holmes. He is also a giant in the field of uncovering the mysteries of Spiritualism including facts and the conundrums. A centerpiece of the story is the strange an unlikely friendship between Harry Houdini and Arthur Conan Doyle. Houdini and Conan Doyle would come close to believing in the af ...more
Kevin Findley
This was actually an ARC I read, but it did not detract from the experience. Editing was quite good and the subject matter was interesting; for the most part.

There was quite a bit of detail on various Mediums prior to Doyle's involvement. It provided a needed history of the Spiritualist movement, but this did slow down the movement of the book, and I personally wanted Mr. Bechtel to hurry up and get to Sir Arthur. Once he did, there was a vast improvement.

Houdini showed up (of course), but what
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Brittany
Apr 28, 2018 rated it liked it
It’s all a bunch of hocus pocus! A rather dull look at the spiritualist movement of the late 1800s and early 1900s. The era where seances were a regular thing, reputed individuals believed in mediums, and people were spitting out ectoplasm and having the dead take over their bodies on the regular. The book focuses on Arthur Conan Doyle who was more interested in hanging out with mediums than writing about his infamous character, Sherlock Holmes. And no book about spiritualism is complete without ...more
Rebecca
The writing was good and the story easy to follow - the topic is not something I would normally have been immediately attracted to: the quasi-religious popularity of Spiritualism as represented by the enormous personality of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, famous popular author of the late 19th C. Bechtel and Stains provide exhaustive research into whatever factual details are obtainable on a number of psychic events from around 1850 through to 1930 and, while the authors themselves are not proponents, ...more
Samantha Chapnick
Apr 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
WOW! What is it about people who become famous and seem totally normal and then spend the rest of their lives devoting their sizable fortune to convincing everyone they are totally nuts? I don't doubt there are spirits and things beyond our ken. But, this guy. Well, lets be generous and say perhaps someone with a brilliant imagination can sometimes drink their own Kool-Aid. And leave it at that. Great read tho'.
Cherylann
Interesting to see what the author of Sherlock was up to after concluding the Canon. His response to the readers unquenchable demand for more Sherlock after the Detective's untimely death at Victoria Falls had echoes in Conan Doyle's own unquenchable thirst for more with the inexhaustible investigation for proof of life after death.
Connie Becerra
Mar 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Interesting take on the dead coming back to communicate with the living. Here's a man, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, a brilliant man by all rights, who believes this with all his heart and mind. In this book, the authors make a good case for his beliefs. It makes me think anything is possible. I wish my Mom would come back to talk to me!
Barbara White
Jul 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is fascinating. It is a study of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his passion with the supernatural. It is a page-turner. Thanks to Goodreads First Reads for a copy of Through a Glass, Darkly. I highly recommend it.
Janette
Maybe 2 1/2 stars. . .only half the book is about Doyle. The rest is about "spiritualism" and seances during his time period. It got tedious for me.
Carolyn
Apr 15, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2018, history, authorial
A decent treatment of the subject, but often wanders off-topic and becomes far too credulous towards the end.
Milt
Nov 30, 2017 rated it liked it
spirited romp
Brendan
Nov 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Conan Doyle and Houdini and scantily clad mediums, how could you go wrong.
Beth
Sep 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
The book was very well written. It flowed easily and did not have any back and forth story lines you had to go back and refer to. I read all but two chapters - the two chapters on the sisters who make tables thump, etc. would keep my active mind up at night. But it didn't hurt the understanding of the book and it continued to be a good read. And I'm living in Melbourne AU at the moment, there was mention of a Stanford brother who brought Singer sewing machines to the country in the mid 1800's - ...more
Maureen
Jul 11, 2017 marked it as to-read
If you're a Sherlock Holmes fan or Conan Doyle enthusiast, you will enjoy this. Nothing new in this book that I had not read before, but again... fans will want to digest everything out there on the topic they love. Fast read.
Amanda
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Dec 06, 2018
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