The Seance by John Harwood is a Victorian mystery that captures the imagination and makes for compelling reading.
The book begins in London in 1889, with Constance Langton, whose family has never quite recovered after the death of her sister, Alma, some years earlier. Raised alone and unloved by her parents, she finds herself drawn into the world of the spiritualist, if only to try and abate her mother’s enduring grief. However, what happens is far removed from what she expects.
Then Constance learns that she has inherited Wraxford Hall, a house in Suffolk with a dark and sinister past, where stories of ghosts, murders and strange disappearances abound. She finds herself drawn into the mysteries, desperate to learn the truth for in her heart she knows all is not as it seems. When a man from the Society for Psychical Research wishes to carry out an investigation at Wraxford Hall, Constance agrees, and soon finds herself in the isolated, decaying house that she has read so much about.
But how will she fare in it when it has been the ruin of so many others? And perhaps more importantly, will she find the answers she seeks?
I don’t often discuss book covers when reviewing books but I was instantly drawn to the cover for The Seance, in the same way that Essie Fox’s The Somnambulist caught my eye. The descriptions of Wraxford Hall were vivid and gloriously spooky. The separate narratives that combine to create the story work so well together, each revealing little pieces of the tale at a time. The characters are engaging and carry off their respective roles with ease.
As I worked my way through The Seance, I couldn’t help but think of The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. The book is so cleverly written that when you start reading you believe you know you are reading a ghost story. The question is, are you?
I was absolutely captivated by this book and wholeheartedly recommend it. I can honestly say that The Seance is one of my ten favourite reads of the year, and in my opinion, you will not be disappointed. It is one of those books in which a reader can very easily get lost…