Summary and book reviews of Inamorata by Joseph Gangemi


by Joseph Gangemi

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  • First Published:
    Jan 2004, 319 pages
    Mar 2005, 336 pages

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Book Summary

It's 1922 and Martin Finch is on the case of a lifetime—to determine whether a beautiful Philadelphia socialite is able to contact the spirit realm. He is prepared to debunk a fraud but instead the man of science falls in love with the medium in this debut historical thriller.

In the tradition of Carter Beats the Devil and The Alienist—a historical page-turner and the debut of a spectacular young talent.

It is 1920s Philadelphia, a time when the feverish popular obsession with the paranormal is confronted by the inevitable ascendance of the scientific method. With everyone from Houdini to Arthur Conan Doyle weighing in on the existence of parapsychological phenomena, the media is as fixated on the sensational debate as scientists and would-be psychics. Indeed, in 1922, Scientific American offers five thousand dollars for evidence of "conclusive psychic manifestations."

Inspired by this real-life event, Inamorata follows Martin Finch, a twenty-three-year-old Harvard graduate student and member of Scientific American's investigative committee, on the case of a lifetime—an attempt to determine whether Mina Crawley, a beautiful Philadelphia socialite, is able to contact the spirit realm. In the tiny upstairs room of the Crawleys' elegant Rittenhouse Square townhouse, Finch is prepared to debunk a fraud. But instead the man of science breaks the cardinal rule of psychic investigation: Never fall in love with the medium...

Chapter 1

"Hypnotize her."

I looked at the girl Halliday had just shoved at me like a virgin sacrifice. She was a leggy little sophomore from Radcliffe, slim as a cigarette, with a black bob and painted brows that gave her a look of pretty astonishment. She gazed up at me in myopic perplexity, as if my face were a puzzle she'd completed only to find herself holding an unaccounted piece.

I looked at Halliday. "I beg your pardon?"

"Hypnotize her, Finch," he repeated. "Everyone knows you can do it."

"You're mistaken."

"Am I? Why don't we ask Dickie Hodgson's sister?"

Halliday gave me a challenging look. The smug son of a bitch knew he had me. I glanced past him to the nearest exit, clear across Emerson's student lounge, calculating the odds of making my escape before Halliday succeeded in drawing a crowd. A few years earlier I might've stood a chance, but ever since Prohibition attendance at the psychology department's illicit ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Is Mina Crawley genuine, or a fake? Do you believe she was manipulating Finch all along to sway the outcome of the investigation, or that she genuinely loved him?

  2. We are currently enjoying a resurgence of interest in spirit-mediums, thanks to the popularity of TV "channelers" like James Van Praagh, John Edwards, and Sylvia Brown. Do you believe this is coincidental, or is spiritualism a timeless fascination?

  3. Have you ever visited a psychic? Did the experience strengthen your belief or confirm your doubt? Did the psychic you visited strike you as genuine?

  4. On the back of Inamorata Audrey Niffenegger praises the novel for its "peculiar sex scenes." Did you find these scenes peculiar? Provocative? What are some of your favorite ...
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BookBrowse Review


Inamorata, Gangemi's first published novel, features a cast of skeptical graduate students, morphine addicts, beguiling spirit-mediums, sadistic gynecologists, peg-legged Filipino butlers, and a talkative ghost. For historical fiction buffs who like their reading matter a little bit thrilling and more than a touch on the strange side.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

Full Review Members Only (432 words).

Media Reviews


A skeptical investigator into paranormal phenomena has much in common with a skeptical book reviewer both of them are ready to disenchant. In the case of Joseph Gangemi's debut novel, both of these skeptics (one inside looking out, the other outside looking in) are delightfully bound to fail. Gangemi takes us into the spiritualist fever of the post-World War I years, vividly recreating an atmosphere in which a scientific journal incites its employees to satisfy the public's hunger for authentic spooks.”

The New York Times Book Review

A great historical story [told with] helpings of mystery and otherworldly strangeness.

Baltimore Sun

Full of convincing period detail—offers not only a fast-paced thriller but a good love story to boot.

Publishers Weekly

Gangemi is an extremely adept writer, though frequent wisecracks and references to popular songs and consumer products of the 1920s wear thin. His plot, too, is a bit weak, but this is an undeniably clever concept and an enjoyable read.

Library Journal - Wendy Bethel

Neither mystery nor romance, this is a suspense novel with both a love story and a puzzle at its center....Replete with images of Old Philadelphia and the Roaring Twenties, this is a thriller you won't put down until the last page. Recommended for all public libraries.

Kirkus Reviews

[A] pleasantly nostalgic atmosphere and a personable young narrator are the attractions in screenwriter Gangemi's more-than-competent first novel... Conan Doyle nicely and neatly updated.

Author Blurb Darin Strauss, author of Chang and Eng
Inamorata affectionately evokes the pop culture and idioms of the Prohibition era...

Author Blurb Ken Kalfus, author of The Commissariat of Enlightenment
A glittering depiction of Jazz Age Philadelphia and a swift entertainment that conjures the forces shaping human destiny science, the supernatural and romantic love.

Author Blurb Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler’s Wife
I adore séances, skeptical graduate students, peculiar sex scenes, beguiling and contra-dictory psychic mediums, and forgotten history Inamorata has all this and more. Mr. Gangemi has constructed his tale with skill, panache, and dry humor. I stayed up very late reading this, and the characters got into my dreams. It’s a wonderful book.

Author Blurb Matthew Pearl, author of The Dante Club
I like to think I could not be hypnotized by even the most masterful attempt. Yet what else can I call the effect of this novel that had me unable to put it down for days straight? Its story of investigating mesmerism and trances among 1920s Philadelphia socialites is a mesmerizing and entrancing experience… A novel as smart as its protagonist.

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Beyond the Book

Interesting Link:
A reproduction of Houdini's pamphlet exposing Margery The Medium.

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