The Spirit Photographer
Boston, 1870. Photographer Edward Moody runs a booming business capturing the images of the spirits of the departed in his portraits. He lures grieving widows and mourning mothers into his studio with promises of catching the ghosts of their deceased loved ones with his camera. Despite the whispers around town that Moody is a fraud of the basest kind, no one has been able to expose him, and word of his gift has spread, earning him money, fame, and a growing list of illustrious clients.One day, while developing the negative from a sitting to capture the spirit of the young son of an abolitionist senator, Moody is shocked to see a different spectral figure develop before his eyes. Instead of the staged image of the boy he was expecting, the camera has seemingly captured the spirit of a beautiful young woman. Is it possible that the spirit photographer caught a real ghost? When Moody recognizes the woman in the photograph as the daughter of an escaped slave he knew long ago, he is compelled to travel from Boston to the Louisiana bayous to resolve their unfinished business—and perhaps save his soul. But more than one person is out to stop him . . .With dramatic twists and redolent of the mood of the Southern Gothic, The Spirit Photographer conjures the Reconstruction era South, replete with fugitive hunters, voodoo healers, and other dangers lurking in the swamp. Jon Michael Varese’s deftly plotted first novel is an intense tale of death and betrayal that will thrill readers as they unravel the dreadful mystery behind the spirit in the photograph and what ultimately became of her.

The Spirit Photographer Details

TitleThe Spirit Photographer
Author
ReleaseApr 17th, 2018
PublisherThe Overlook Press
ISBN-139781468315875
Rating
GenreHistorical, Historical Fiction, Fiction, Mystery, Historical Mystery, Adult Fiction

The Spirit Photographer Review

  • Fran
    January 1, 1970
    Written accounts of the Civil War have been further enhanced by photographic documentation provided by Matthew Brady. In this historical fiction novel, Brady has sent an apprentice, Edward Moody, to photograph the carnage at Antietam in 1862. After viewing the photos of dead bodies and horse carcasses, woodcuts and other likenesses started to appear in newspapers. Why not raise up the dead through spiritual communication? Brokenhearted wives and mothers felt hopeless. Communicating with a lost s Written accounts of the Civil War have been further enhanced by photographic documentation provided by Matthew Brady. In this historical fiction novel, Brady has sent an apprentice, Edward Moody, to photograph the carnage at Antietam in 1862. After viewing the photos of dead bodies and horse carcasses, woodcuts and other likenesses started to appear in newspapers. Why not raise up the dead through spiritual communication? Brokenhearted wives and mothers felt hopeless. Communicating with a lost son or husband by capturing his spirit could often promote inner peace.In 1870, Edward Moody claimed to capture the ghost of a deceased loved one. A spectral image appeared in a photo created in his studio. Customers from all walks of life frequented his business in the hope of reconnecting with a shadowy loved one faintly appearing in the background. His fame spread despite the naysayers who tried to expose him as a fraud.Abolitionist Senator James Garrett tried to placate wife Elizabeth by sitting for a spirit photo despite his abhorrence of Moody's methods. Elizabeth had been informed in writing, by Moody, that her son William, who died eighteen years ago, had communicated from the spirit world and she must sit for an immediate photo to be reunited with him. Development of the photo is troubling. In lieu of William's likeness, the shadowy image of a young woman appears. Moody knows her, but so does James Garrett. Garrett must obtain the negative, and soon."The Spirit Photographer: A Novel" by Jon Michael Varese is a novel about spirit photography, fact and fiction. A journey undertaken to the bayou interjects Reconstruction Era thinking, bounty hunting, and the practice of voodoo. For this reader, of greatest importance is continued recognition of all aspects of the Civil War Era through the medium of photography. An excellent Southern Gothic debut novel I highly recommend.Thank you W. W. Norton & Company and Net Galley for the opportunity to read and review "The Spirit Photographer".
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  • Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
    January 1, 1970
    4 glowing stars to The Spirit Photographer! ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ It’s 1870 in Boston, and photographer Edward Moody’s job is to capture spirits of departed loved ones in photos. The word on the street is that Moody is a scammer, but at the same time, his popularity is spreading, and his work is in high demand. Moody ends up developing a photo with a “real” spirit connected to himself instead of his paying client. As a result, he travels to Louisiana to resolve some of his past. The Spirit Photographer is a s 4 glowing stars to The Spirit Photographer! ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ It’s 1870 in Boston, and photographer Edward Moody’s job is to capture spirits of departed loved ones in photos. The word on the street is that Moody is a scammer, but at the same time, his popularity is spreading, and his work is in high demand. Moody ends up developing a photo with a “real” spirit connected to himself instead of his paying client. As a result, he travels to Louisiana to resolve some of his past. The Spirit Photographer is a southern Gothic mystery taking place during the fascinating time of the Reconstruction. It’s well-written with round characters and took me on quite the thrill ride! Just who was that spirit captured in Moody’s photo? Another fabulous recommendation from my friend, Fran! Thank you to Jon Michael Varese, Overlook Press, and Netgalley for the ARC. The Spirit Photographer releases on April 17, 2018!
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  • Cheri
    January 1, 1970
    !! NOW AVAILABLE !!”Banner of Light”Boston, Massachusetts Saturday, August 5, 1865“A NEW PHASE of spiritual manifestations is exciting a great deal of attention and wonder in those who take an interest in the grand and beautiful subject of spirit communion. If this phenomenon in spiritual manifestation be genuine, it is the greatest and the best yet given to outside perception and bears incontrovertible evidence of the truth that spiritual communications are what they claim to be, viz.: actual !! NOW AVAILABLE !!”Banner of Light”Boston, Massachusetts Saturday, August 5, 1865“A NEW PHASE of spiritual manifestations is exciting a great deal of attention and wonder in those who take an interest in the grand and beautiful subject of spirit communion. If this phenomenon in spiritual manifestation be genuine, it is the greatest and the best yet given to outside perception and bears incontrovertible evidence of the truth that spiritual communications are what they claim to be, viz.: actual manifestations of the ‘dead’ to the ‘living.’”Edward Moody once apprenticed to famed photographer Matthew Brady, photographing the fallen.”My subjects today did not make appointments for their sittings. They were photographed as they fell, their hands clutching the grass around them, or reaching out for help that never came. The red light of battle is faded from their eyes, but their lips are still set with that last fierce charge which loosed their souls from their bodies. The ground upon which they lie is torn by shot and shell, and the grass trampled down by the tread of hot, hurrying feet. Little rivulets that can scarcely be of water are still trickling along the earth like tears over a mother’s face.“After the days of such scenes were behind him, the lure of offering peace, perhaps even hope, to the families of those who have lost loved ones. Moody, returned from apprenticing for Brad, has his own thriving photography business. While not all of his photographs include spirits, many do include those who have passed beyond the veil. Still, many consider him a fraud, but each time some person, some group tries to expose him as a fraud, scrutinizing each step of his work, his fame grows. As his fame grows, more grieving widows, and mothers mourning the loss of children flock to him as word spreads.”I cannot shake from my thoughts the one side of these pictures that the sun did not catch…the one phase that has escaped our photographic skill. It is the background of widows and orphans…mothers, sons, daughters…torn from their natural protectors by the remorseless hand of battle. This war has made thousands of homes desolate, and has forever quenched the light of life in thoughts of hearts. Imagination must be the one to paint all this desolation, for I cannot – broken hearts cannot be photographed.” Within these pages is a mystery beyond how Moody manages to capture the images of the departed, involving the image of a woman who appears in the photograph of a Senator, who agrees to sit for this photograph only to placate his still grieving wife, and the wife who is depending on their son’s image appearing. When a ghostly image appears that is not their son, each is struck by their own thoughts.Getting to the bottom of this mystery sends Moody traveling to the bayous of Louisiana, while the Senator’s wife sinks deeper into her own thoughts pondering why this woman’s image would appear in their photo, and why now. The Senator only knows that public opinion is not only against the practice of spiritual photography, but also that if the photograph is leaked, too many questions would arise, and his political aspirations would be shredded.Whispers of voodoo haunt these pages, as answers are sought, a journey to see if enough light is cast upon the darkness, will truth bring peace. Pub Date: 17 APR 2018Many thanks for the ARC provided by The Overlook Press
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  • Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede
    January 1, 1970
    The Civil War may be over, but it has left a lot of women mourning husbands and sons. This has seen an increase in spiritualism. And in Boston, there is a man, Edward Moody that is said to be able to take your picture and you dearly departed will appear as a ghost in the picture. Despite many people proclaiming he's a fake, so far no one has been able to expose him as a fraud. However, when he's taking the photographs that should show the ghost of the dead son to an abolitionist senator instead The Civil War may be over, but it has left a lot of women mourning husbands and sons. This has seen an increase in spiritualism. And in Boston, there is a man, Edward Moody that is said to be able to take your picture and you dearly departed will appear as a ghost in the picture. Despite many people proclaiming he's a fake, so far no one has been able to expose him as a fraud. However, when he's taking the photographs that should show the ghost of the dead son to an abolitionist senator instead of boy there is a beautiful woman in the photograph, a woman Edward recognizes...READ THE REST OF THE REVIEW OVER AT FRESH FICTION!
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  • Rebecca Foster
    January 1, 1970
    Varese’s debut novel was inspired by the life story of the real-life father of spirit photography, William H. Mumler. His fictional stand-in here is Edward Moody, who was a battlefield photographer under Matthew Brady and now owns his own photography studio in Boston. Moody considers himself to be doing a service to the bereaved by fabricating family photographs in which the ghost of a departed loved one appears. But his own loss looms large, and he must undertake a quest to the New Orleans bayo Varese’s debut novel was inspired by the life story of the real-life father of spirit photography, William H. Mumler. His fictional stand-in here is Edward Moody, who was a battlefield photographer under Matthew Brady and now owns his own photography studio in Boston. Moody considers himself to be doing a service to the bereaved by fabricating family photographs in which the ghost of a departed loved one appears. But his own loss looms large, and he must undertake a quest to the New Orleans bayou to find out what really happened. This all sounds rather more exciting than it actually is. Like Steven Price’s By Gaslight, The Spirit Photographer is too long and melodramatic, often requiring a major suspension of disbelief. The novel is capably written and plotted, but doesn’t stand out in the sea of historical fiction or live up to its exciting premise. What with Varese’s academic background, he may have been better off writing this as nonfiction.See my full review at The Bookbag.
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  • Cindy
    January 1, 1970
    The title and cover photo drew me to this novel. I've been really into historical fiction lately and as a genealogist, this was my kind of story.It's set after the Civil War has ended and a photographer, Moody, has had his fill of photographing depressing battle field images. So he sets about doing photographs in which the deceased images show up in portraits of family members. There was a big belief in spiritualism at that time and the author certainly did a good job at facts on that. Also how The title and cover photo drew me to this novel. I've been really into historical fiction lately and as a genealogist, this was my kind of story.It's set after the Civil War has ended and a photographer, Moody, has had his fill of photographing depressing battle field images. So he sets about doing photographs in which the deceased images show up in portraits of family members. There was a big belief in spiritualism at that time and the author certainly did a good job at facts on that. Also how things were during that period in history. The part set in New Orleans was described very realistic. I could see the Spanish moss hanging from the trees from the descriptive words of the author. It was an interesting book that anyone into historical fiction would enjoy!* I was provided an ARC to read from the publisher and NetGalley. It was my decision to read and review this book.
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  • Melissa Joulwan
    January 1, 1970
    The author of this book is a follower of my blog, and I got a preview copy. I'm so lucky to be in contact with such talented, intelligent people! I devoured this book in two days—I needed to know the truth about the spirit in the photograph!The book jacket copy is practically a checklist of things I love in fiction: turn-of-the-century hijinks, cities I've visited, a flim-flam man, a ghost, secrets and betrayal, voodoo, court proceedings, and a story woven from the facts of history.The cast of c The author of this book is a follower of my blog, and I got a preview copy. I'm so lucky to be in contact with such talented, intelligent people! I devoured this book in two days—I needed to know the truth about the spirit in the photograph!The book jacket copy is practically a checklist of things I love in fiction: turn-of-the-century hijinks, cities I've visited, a flim-flam man, a ghost, secrets and betrayal, voodoo, court proceedings, and a story woven from the facts of history.The cast of characters are very vivid, and while I dislike some of them for being just awful people, they feel true and real, which makes them compelling. Everyone has hidden depths and should not be taken lightly, especially Moody and his partner-in-crime Winter. And Mrs. Lovejoy, the landlady, is a true delight.Jon does a brilliant job of putting the reader RIGHT THERE when Moody and Winter venture into the Louisiana bayou; I swear I could feel the humidity and see the ripples in the water myself. Through his characters' speech and his descriptions, he clearly illuminates the sometimes dramatic differences between the north and south during the crucial years just after the Civil War. "In New England, memories were locked behind brick walls and heavy doors. Here, the trees seemed to weep with them."The book kicks off with plenty of energy and intrigue, and the ending is very satisfying. In between, there are plenty of high-stakes conversations and action, as well as some difficult discussions of race relations and sexism that feel particularly apt, given our current politics. (Warning: There's some tough language, so if you're sensitive, keep this in mind.) The ramifications of the central plot echo through all of the characters' lives and no one is left untouched by the beautiful and tragic experience of the spirit in the photograph... including me.
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  • Jason
    January 1, 1970
    What a wild ride!The book is set just after slavery ends, the freed slaves are trying to find their place in the world and things are on the edge of heading back to how they were, whilst all this is happening there is a spirit photographer, named Moody, at the centre of a battle between scientists and the spiritualists. Mixed into all this action is a ghost story and a cracking mystery.The research is first rate, in fact you get a nice list of books at the end if you want to look into things fur What a wild ride!The book is set just after slavery ends, the freed slaves are trying to find their place in the world and things are on the edge of heading back to how they were, whilst all this is happening there is a spirit photographer, named Moody, at the centre of a battle between scientists and the spiritualists. Mixed into all this action is a ghost story and a cracking mystery.The research is first rate, in fact you get a nice list of books at the end if you want to look into things further. You get some fantastic characters in Moody, Winter and the demon-like Wilcox who is hunting them. Between some of the chapters are included newspaper cuttings showing both sides of the battle between the scientists and the spiritualists, these make a great addition. As things start to reach a crescendo one of the best part of the book happens, Moody's day in court and the interesting arguments between the prosecutor and defence lawyers.I really enjoyed this thrilling book and can't find any fault, a wonderful debut. Not sure I can think of another writer to compare this to.Blog review here> https://felcherman.wordpress.com/2018...
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  • Bonnye Reed
    January 1, 1970
    GNab Jon Michael Varese brings us an excellent tale based on facts of the reconstruction years following the Civil War. We travel from Boston to New Orleans and into the cypress swamps with photographer Edward Moody and his black assistant Joseph Winter following the long cold trail of Isabelle, once loved by both men in their own way. And with Senator James B. Garrett and his wife Elizabeth we are exposed to the vague influence of Washington DC and the already looming spyglass of public awarene GNab Jon Michael Varese brings us an excellent tale based on facts of the reconstruction years following the Civil War. We travel from Boston to New Orleans and into the cypress swamps with photographer Edward Moody and his black assistant Joseph Winter following the long cold trail of Isabelle, once loved by both men in their own way. And with Senator James B. Garrett and his wife Elizabeth we are exposed to the vague influence of Washington DC and the already looming spyglass of public awareness on all things political. Things legal greet us from the very public trial of Edward Moody for swindling many credulous persons, leading them to believe that his spirit photographs are true representations of the spirits of their lost love ones. In the process we find complete immersion into the spirit of life in this telling decade of American History, as the nation tries to heal and move onward from the devastation of the Civil War. I found this novel very informative of many facets of life in the 1865 - 1870's America. Varese presents us with aspects of travel, police procedures, immersion of freed blacks into the cloth of civilization, and even Voodoo practices as well as the history of the Spiritualists and Scientists in America during those critical years. But The Spirit Photographer: A Novel, is first and foremost an entertaining tale, hard to put down. I can happily recommend this novel to friends and family. It is difficult to believe this is a debut novel. I will look for more coming out by this gifted author. I received a free electronic copy of this novel from Netgalley, Jon Michael Varese, and The Overlook Press in exchange for an honest review. Thank you all for sharing your hard work with me.pub date April 17, 2018The Overlook Press
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  • Abby Slater- Fairbrother
    January 1, 1970
    The Spirit Photographer is a Southern Gothic literary novel, which has outstanding detail and truly brings alive the era. The fact that it is a debut novel only makes it more astounding. As I would recommend this for fans of The Underground railroad by Colson Whitehead. It is that good! The novel details the confederate states, the difference between northern/southern states of the US in that era. The racial oppression and fight for civil rights is covered in resounding accuracy. Yet, it also ha The Spirit Photographer is a Southern Gothic literary novel, which has outstanding detail and truly brings alive the era. The fact that it is a debut novel only makes it more astounding. As I would recommend this for fans of The Underground railroad by Colson Whitehead. It is that good! The novel details the confederate states, the difference between northern/southern states of the US in that era. The racial oppression and fight for civil rights is covered in resounding accuracy. Yet, it also has this huge hook, of having an occult theme within. Can ghosts be captured on camera film? And if so does this mean our loved ones are still with us? For one unlikely lady, it is too much of a question to bare and she dares to seek the answers. Which leads her to uncover all her secrets and personal shame. . . The novel opens with Mr Moody, taking a photo for Mrs Lovejoy. A lady that wishes to be reunited with her deceased cousin. There are several articles within the novel that detail Mr Moody’s reputation and success as a spiritual photographer. Slowly but surely, he is acquiring fame and fortune. The novel centres around a married couple, the Garrett’s. Their desire to be reunited with their beloved and only, perished son William Jeffrey. Who passed away 18yrs ago, at just 3yrs old. His last words haunt his mother Elizabeth and she has never been the same woman, since he passed. Can Mr Moody help her overcome her grief?‘It will be gone soon’ – William Jeffrey’s last wordsBut the Garrett’s aren’t just any couple, for they are the political elite. Senator James Garrett is quite the radical given the historical era and setting. He has won clear legal victories against the Klan and championed the election of Hiram Revels a black Mississippi minister. James has a desire to secure fundamental rights for all the country’s citizens. He is not afraid of who this may involve taking on. Even his closest friend and loyalist ally Benjamin P Dovehouse. Elizabeth’s roots are in southern plantations, whilst some may call her a hypocrite she uses her privilege to speak out against the harsh and unjustifiable treatment that takes place on the plantation crop fields. Which only adds to James political power. Make no mistake James and Elizabeth Garrett have political power, but they also have secrets.‘These women could talk, and pretend to understand federal policy all they liked. But they would never be able to perceive what they were incapable of seeing. Elizabeth had seen’ Mrs Lovejoy makes the necessary introductions between Mr Moody and the Garrett’s. Once the photo is taken, it reveals a spirit. But this is not the spirit anyone could have foreseen, least of all the Garrett’s. This is the spirit of a slave girl, named Isabelle. But who is Isabelle? Why is she in the photo of the Garrett’s? ‘It was Isabelle – His Isabelle. She had finally returned’ Mr Moody becomes acquainted with Joseph Winter. Winter hopes to expose Moody as a fraud, but until he can achieve such an act he must place himself in the position of Mr Moody’s assistant. This is made much easier via negotiation, after the discovery of Isabelle in the photo. For not only did Winter know Isabelle, he is a black man and therefore able to infiltrate the black community of the south. ‘She is a powerful spirit’ – Joseph WinterMoody hasn’t heard from Isabelle in 18yrs, since she sent him a letter before heading for Boston. He was unaware she had even passed on. Does this photo mean that Isabelle, his love, is dead?Winter is quick to determine their must be a link between Isabelle and the Garrett’s for her spirit to show in their image. Whilst Moody and Winter, set about their investigation. The Garrett’s are also making plans. . . ‘If he publishes that picture, it could lead to our ruin’ – Elizabeth GarrettThe Garrett’s are extremely concerned for their reputations. They know their elitist society thrives upon rumour, speculation and assumptions. Elizabeth becomes irrational and anxious, urging James to take action. It is then that James summons Dovehouse to retrieve the image, at once. Benjamin P Dovehouse is James best friend since their years at Harvard law school. However, Dovehouse holds rather different opinions about the negro community. He is a conservative republican and long-standing member of the American colonization society. Dovehouse believes the negroes should know their place in society. ‘A semi-barbarous race of men who worship fetishes and practice polygamy, intent on subjecting all white women to their hot unbridled lust’ ‘The negroes are little more than children’ – Dovehouse Moody and Winter quickly become aware that if they are going to uncover the truth, they must act quickly. They also know that they must head south, to where all Isabelle’s trouble began. . . ‘She had a power over them, as she has a power over then now. They will want this photograph destroyed’ – Joseph WinterAt this point I was fully engrossed. I was desperate to know the link between Isabelle and the Garrett’s. I also wanted to know what was so shameful, that they’ll go to such lengths to cover it up? As stated above the historical accuracy is second to none. But it isn’t just historical accuracy that makes a novel of this calibre succeed. It also requires outstanding characterisation, which you will find when you meet Moody, Winter and the Garrett’s and the people we meet along the journey. The conversations between the characters often reference the racial bias of the generation. The ignorance however wilful, is laid bare for all to see. “It’s a wonder to me that the women of the south can abide such barbarism”“And just who do you think is sewing the hoods?” As Moody and Winter make their journey to New Orleans, they both reflect upon their memories of Isabelle and what made her the woman she was. The kind, decent and honourable woman she once was. ‘Every year a hundred thousand newborn babies are brought upon the auction blocks of Richmod, Charleston, and New Orleans. Every year, tens of thousands of lives are sacrificed to the lash in the south’ – Isabelle The answers Moody and Winter seek lay in BelleVoix, New Orleans. But they upon the journey Winter must dodge Wilcox, a notorious slave hunter. They come across a wide-range of characters, that just enhance the story in its entirety, such as Yellow Henry. What starts as a simple mystery evolves into a much bigger case, with its roots leading right to congress. This is an outstanding novel, that I highly, highly recommend! 5* Genius ‘It was convenient – to blame the negroes. It was a trick that always worked’
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  • Deanne Patterson
    January 1, 1970
    Taking place in Boston in 1870 after the Civil War is over. Photographer Edward Moody sees all the stress and sadness from the widows and mothers of the departed. He promises to capture the ghost of ones dearly departed loved ones. After the Civil War interest in Spiritualism increases. This photographer takes pictures of live people but when developed a spirit from the person's past shows up in the photo with them. This Southern Gothic mystery takes you from the streets of Boston to the bayous Taking place in Boston in 1870 after the Civil War is over. Photographer Edward Moody sees all the stress and sadness from the widows and mothers of the departed. He promises to capture the ghost of ones dearly departed loved ones. After the Civil War interest in Spiritualism increases. This photographer takes pictures of live people but when developed a spirit from the person's past shows up in the photo with them. This Southern Gothic mystery takes you from the streets of Boston to the bayous of Louisiana during the fascinating time of the Reconstruction. You will not want to put this one down once you start it. It has many characters that may be confusing at first but these well written character's all come together at the end.Pub Date 17 Apr 2018 I was given a complimentary copy of this book by The Overlook Press through NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own.
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  • Contrary Reader
    January 1, 1970
    I really enjoyed this one. Having read Lincoln in the Bardo and not being able to quite engage with its creative narrative- this book shared similarities and delivered. It manages to weave many heavy plot threads and still keep your attention due to its pacy development. I felt that it’s emphasis on slavery, barbarity and the civil war made for an interesting story that helped me understand this time in history and how lives were affected. Perhaps more emphasis could have been made on emotions, I really enjoyed this one. Having read Lincoln in the Bardo and not being able to quite engage with its creative narrative- this book shared similarities and delivered. It manages to weave many heavy plot threads and still keep your attention due to its pacy development. I felt that it’s emphasis on slavery, barbarity and the civil war made for an interesting story that helped me understand this time in history and how lives were affected. Perhaps more emphasis could have been made on emotions, but I get this didn’t fit the pacy/ actionlike approach. Loved all the southern flourishes. The swamp scenes were really eerie
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  • Merryl Todd
    January 1, 1970
    Congratulations Jon Varese on a thoroughly enjoyable debut novel! Varese takes the reader on a journey from Boston, Massachusetts through to the swamp lands of New Orleans as we follow the main character, Edward Moody and his companion Joseph Winter as they travel through the post-civil war America in search of the elusive Isabelle.The Spirit Photographer is a highly entertaining Southern gothic mystery novel that successfully blends fact with fiction. Varese has created dynamic characters who c Congratulations Jon Varese on a thoroughly enjoyable debut novel! Varese takes the reader on a journey from Boston, Massachusetts through to the swamp lands of New Orleans as we follow the main character, Edward Moody and his companion Joseph Winter as they travel through the post-civil war America in search of the elusive Isabelle.The Spirit Photographer is a highly entertaining Southern gothic mystery novel that successfully blends fact with fiction. Varese has created dynamic characters who change and grow as the story unfolds although I would’ve like to have known more about Moody’s reason for creating spirit photography.I look forward to reading Jon Varese’s next novel !
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  • Elizabeth Cole
    January 1, 1970
    Original review can be found at: http://www.nerdprobs.com/books/book-r...**A copy of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**I am my families resident genealogist. When I saw the book about “spirit photography” it totally piqued my interest. Spirit Photography? I have got to read this book and find out what it is all about. While it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting it was still an amazing book. With it being loosely based on true events it make Original review can be found at: http://www.nerdprobs.com/books/book-r...**A copy of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**I am my families resident genealogist. When I saw the book about “spirit photography” it totally piqued my interest. Spirit Photography? I have got to read this book and find out what it is all about. While it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting it was still an amazing book. With it being loosely based on true events it makes it even better since it’s no secret that I enjoy books based on true events.The story weaves around Elizabeth Garrett and her husband James. They are a prominent family in Boston. James is a Senator and a staunch supporter of the freeing of slaves. The rest of the story revolves around Edward Moody and Joseph Winter. Edward is a “Spirit Photographer”. He is both lauded for reuniting loved ones with their deceased family members and frowned upon for taking advantage of people. Some think he is a trickster or uses slight of hand. The Garrett’s and Moody’s paths cross when Elizabeth books a sitting so that they can hopefully get the spirit of their deceased 3-year-old son William Jeffery Garrett’s on a photo with them. That way they can be reunited once more. Elizabeth is very excited for the sitting. She has taken the death of her son hard. James, on the other hand, is very skeptical and slightly digs his heels in when his wife suggests the photo. In the end, he gives in and goes with her. While they received their spirit photo, it is not the spirit they were expecting or planning on ever seeing again. The spirit that appeared was Isabelle, the nanny of their son, who vanished after he died. Elizabeth angerly storms out while James is visibly shaken. Will Elizabeth and James be able to weather this storm together or will it tear them apart? Will Joseph be able to save Moody from himself and from the fire and pitchforks that are after him?If you only buy/read/borrow one book this year it has got to be this one! Once I actually sat down to read this book, I just flew through it. If you are a post Civil War/Reformation history buff this book is for you. The characters were well rounded. You could sympathize with Elizabeth for the loss of her child but at the same time be slightly appalled by her for her actions as the book progressed. With James, I must say that I really never sympathize with him. I was more appalled by his actions than anyone else in the book. The way Elizabeth would cover up any of his transgression so that it did not tarnish his reputation as a Senator disgusted me. Moody and Winter I envisioned as a Sherlock Holmes and Watson duo. Moody is the slightly clueless counterpart to Winter’s street smarts and knowing how things work in the world. This book kept me guessing as to what was going to happen on the next page. It gave me a historical mystery that I would happily buy as a gift for the history buff in my family. I will definitely keep an eye out for more books by this author.
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  • Kate Eminhizer
    January 1, 1970
    I received an advanced reading copy of this book via NetGalley for an honest review.This was a strong debut. Overall the plot was sensational enough that I wanted to read through to the end. The characters had considerable depth. I enjoyed how the perspective seamlessly changed from one character to the next. The author provided wonderful descriptions of the landscape, specifically in Louisiana. I am not sure the book needed to have quite as much of the political machinery. That part seemed disj I received an advanced reading copy of this book via NetGalley for an honest review.This was a strong debut. Overall the plot was sensational enough that I wanted to read through to the end. The characters had considerable depth. I enjoyed how the perspective seamlessly changed from one character to the next. The author provided wonderful descriptions of the landscape, specifically in Louisiana. I am not sure the book needed to have quite as much of the political machinery. That part seemed disjointed. While it had context with the rest of the plot, it almost dampened the emotions the author had created to that point. The author did a fine job of writing a book set in such a dynamic time period of US history.
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  • Debbi
    January 1, 1970
    (Thank you Netgalley for an early reader copy)Set in Boston not long after the end of the Civil War, "The Spirit Photographer" is the story of a man, Edward Moody, who takes "spirit photographs", which are photographs of live people, but when developed, a spirit from the people's past shows up in the picture with them. It might be a deceased relative, a friend...but Moody has developed a business catering to those who yearn for one last sight of a lost loved one. It's quite a profitable business (Thank you Netgalley for an early reader copy)Set in Boston not long after the end of the Civil War, "The Spirit Photographer" is the story of a man, Edward Moody, who takes "spirit photographs", which are photographs of live people, but when developed, a spirit from the people's past shows up in the picture with them. It might be a deceased relative, a friend...but Moody has developed a business catering to those who yearn for one last sight of a lost loved one. It's quite a profitable business for Mr. Moody. But when the figure of a woman shows up in the photograph of the beloved and influential Senator Garrett and his wife Elizabeth, the questions begin. Who is this woman? What is her relationship to the Senator? How did she come to be in the picture? The revelations sends the parties involved on intricate and mysterious quest. Hidden fractures in the relationship between the Senator and Elizabeth appear and get broader. The mystery of their son's death, and the disappearance of one of their servants, long suppressed, resurfaces. But the photo of the woman also has an impact on Moody, and on another spirit photographer, Winter. Ultimately the photograph will lead to a quest by Moody and Winter to find out what happened to her, a quest that takes them into Reconstruction, the underground railroad, the swamps and bayous of Louisiana, and beyond.This book took me in an entirely different direction than I expected. I expected the story of a charlatan (which Moody was) but he also believed. There are so many connections and misdirections and mysteries in this book it can get confusing, but it is also impossible to put down. You just want to know....to know what happened to the woman, to know about the various connections and interconnections. It's an elegant piece of writing with an intricate and complex story line that will keep you riveted. Definitely a good read!
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  • MJG
    January 1, 1970
    I’m always looking for novels like this. The Spirit Photographer is both a page-turning thriller and well-researched historical fiction. And on top of that it’s beautifully written. I particularly like that the haunting that’s so central to the book can be interpreted as either supernatural or psychological. It’s tough to find a book these days that can really pull that off.The twist at the end was incredibly powerful. It actually choked me up. This book is a must read.
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  • Nia Ireland
    January 1, 1970
    The immediate appeal of this book to me was the Southern Gothic feel and the idea of spirit photography. Spiritualism always seems to have its rise during times of war but the idea of it being mixed in with the rise of new forms of technology is really interesting to me. The plot itself is a mystery, the spirit of a missing woman appears in a photo of a Senator and his wife but Moody, the photographer, also knew this woman and must figure out how she connects all of them together.This is quite a The immediate appeal of this book to me was the Southern Gothic feel and the idea of spirit photography. Spiritualism always seems to have its rise during times of war but the idea of it being mixed in with the rise of new forms of technology is really interesting to me. The plot itself is a mystery, the spirit of a missing woman appears in a photo of a Senator and his wife but Moody, the photographer, also knew this woman and must figure out how she connects all of them together.This is quite a fast paced novel and covers a lot of ground, including a lot of the politics about the abolition of slavery. In all honesty, I wasn’t a fan of that part of the novel as the only in-depth views came from the white characters. Apart from lacking the balance I’d like, it also felt lacking in the emotion needed to really describe the far-reaching evil of it all. Without a clear final judgement of ‘all these men are terrible people’, it’s a story that just leaves me sad and a bit peeved. What I did enjoy was the big question mark over spirit photography and the psychology and ethics of it all, as well as the well-researched feel of the novel. When the characters end up taking a jaunt to New Orleans, you feel yourself go there with them and take in the atmosphere of the city as it would have been back then.Overall, the book lacked the emotion I needed to really make it stand out but the mystery itself is compelling.*Thank you NetGalley for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review*
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  • Susan Johnston
    January 1, 1970
    Princess Fuzzypants here:Victorian times saw an increase in spiritualism on both sides of the Atlantic. In America, after a bloody and divisive Civil War, people were desperate to connect with deceased loved ones. No matter what you may think about the supernatural, frauds and charlatans openly preyed on the bereaved.Moody runs a photographic studio where a picture could produce a ghostly image of the dead. Did he have a genuine talent or was he, like so many others, tricking the vulnerable. In Princess Fuzzypants here:Victorian times saw an increase in spiritualism on both sides of the Atlantic. In America, after a bloody and divisive Civil War, people were desperate to connect with deceased loved ones. No matter what you may think about the supernatural, frauds and charlatans openly preyed on the bereaved.Moody runs a photographic studio where a picture could produce a ghostly image of the dead. Did he have a genuine talent or was he, like so many others, tricking the vulnerable. In this book, perhaps, it is a bit of both when someone he loved and lost shows up in the photograph of a Senator and his wife. This unexplained appearance shakes Moody, his apprentice and the couple. What is the ghost telling them and why did she elicit such a strong response in the subjects of the photo.The rest of the book explores what she meant to the four people involved who witnessed the photo and why the Senator and his wife are so determined to block the photo from ever seeing daylight. There are elements of supernatural shenanigans and some very real and cruel realities. At times there is almost too much going on but it is a compelling and chilling story.I give four purrs and two paws up.
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  • Marissa
    January 1, 1970
    I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.The Spirit Photographer is a historical fiction novel that takes readers on a journey from the bustling streets of Boston to the Louisiana bayou during 1870 with a man who is seeking answers to his past. Aside from the historical aspects to the book, it also contains small elements of the paranormal, some politics, and class struggles. If the theme of slavery and slaves being abused by their owne I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.The Spirit Photographer is a historical fiction novel that takes readers on a journey from the bustling streets of Boston to the Louisiana bayou during 1870 with a man who is seeking answers to his past. Aside from the historical aspects to the book, it also contains small elements of the paranormal, some politics, and class struggles. If the theme of slavery and slaves being abused by their owners disturbs you, I don't recommend picking up this book. It did remind me of The Alienist. The author paid good attention to historical detail. I found the scenes in the Louisiana bayou to be written very visually. This was also a good story of how one person can have a profoundly different affect on many different people's lives. I felt like the politics were just a tad overdone at times. I realize one of the characters is a political figure and therefore it was necessary, but the extent of it almost distracted me from the other parts of the story. Overall, a good historical fiction book about the lengths people will go for others with a good mystery rolled in.
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  • Annie
    January 1, 1970
    When I requested The Spirit Photographer, by Jon Michael Varese, I had no idea that the story of a man who claims to take pictures of spirits would take me into the hell of American slavery and the injustice of the Fugitive Slave Act. But now that I think about it, the opening scenes represent a moment in which the crimes of the past and the frauds of 1870 Boston come together into one damaging, disturbing photo, in which a senator and his wife appear to be shadowed by a young Black woman who sh When I requested The Spirit Photographer, by Jon Michael Varese, I had no idea that the story of a man who claims to take pictures of spirits would take me into the hell of American slavery and the injustice of the Fugitive Slave Act. But now that I think about it, the opening scenes represent a moment in which the crimes of the past and the frauds of 1870 Boston come together into one damaging, disturbing photo, in which a senator and his wife appear to be shadowed by a young Black woman who should not be there...Read the rest of my review at A Bookish Type. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss, for review consideration.
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  • Kristine
    January 1, 1970
    The Spirit Photographer by Jon Michael Varese is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in late March.Inspired by the real-life work of William H. Mumler, the author creates the fictional character of Edward Moody, who is a spirit photographer during the Spiritualism movement of the 1870s. It all comes off very southern Gothic, but hopeful, with Edward reaching out for possibility after the death/disappearance of his girlfriend, Isabelle, amidst ongoing conflict between politicians, scientists, Spir The Spirit Photographer by Jon Michael Varese is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in late March.Inspired by the real-life work of William H. Mumler, the author creates the fictional character of Edward Moody, who is a spirit photographer during the Spiritualism movement of the 1870s. It all comes off very southern Gothic, but hopeful, with Edward reaching out for possibility after the death/disappearance of his girlfriend, Isabelle, amidst ongoing conflict between politicians, scientists, Spiritualists, abolitionists, and slave owners.
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  • Ashley
    January 1, 1970
    Was looking for a dark but unchallenging read. This book fit the bill nicely. Historical mystery set in antebellum America? Southern gothic themes? Passable writing quality? Check, check, checkity check.
  • Cosette
    January 1, 1970
    I had recommended this book to the library because it looked like it would be good. Very disappointed, it was nothing like what I had expected.
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