I was very excited when Danielle mentioned, back in December I think it might have been, that John Harwood had a new book coming out. I read and enjoyed The Ghost Writer very much a couple years ago. As a person who does not do horror but enjoys books that do have a creep factor to them, it was a good read. And now I have finally read The Seance. I didn’t find it as satisfying as The Ghost Writer but it was still pretty good.
The story takes place in Victorian England and is told in three voices, Constance, Eleanor, and John Montague. Constance is in the present of the story. We begin with her and what must have been a horrid childhood. Her little sister, Alma, has died of scarlet fever and her mother is inconsolable. Alma was her favorite of her two children and now that she is dead, she wishes she were dead too. Constance’s father goes to the library everyday to work on his book, a book that never seems to be finished but is of the utmost importance nonetheless. Constance is left to look after her mother who sinks rapidly into a deep and dark depression.
Spiritualism is in vogue and Constance, who wishes she had died instead of her sister, in an effort to make her mother happy one evening pretends to slip into a trance and become a medium for Alma. Constance sings a little song Alma used to sing and tells her mother that everything is fine and she shouldn’t be sad, then disappears. Constance pretends to wake. Unfortunately, Constance has opened up a Pandora’s box because instead of being satisfied with one visit from Alma, her mother presses her for more. But enough of that particular story line, don’t want to give too much away.
Fast forward and Constance is now a young woman living at her uncle’s house. She sees an advertisement in the paper from someone looking for her. She writes, and it turns out she has inherited the Wraxford estate from a distant female relative she did not even know she had. The Attorney, John Montague, tells her it is best if she never goes there. The Hall is falling to ruins and is encumbered by debt, not to mention a tragic history. Montague suggests she sell the place sight unseen and be happy with whatever is left after the debts are paid.
We are treated to a history, mystery, and horror of what went on through the years at Wraxford Hall through a narrative by John Montague as well as a diary left by Eleanor Wraxford. There are disappearances, ghosts, clairvoyance, mesmerism, a ghastly suit of armor, dreadful storms and lightning used to power unnatural experiments, and of course, there is murder.
Constance now finds herself the keeper of all the secrets and is trying to fit together the puzzle pieces in order to figure out what really happened. She does not heed John Montague’s advice, but goes to Wraxford Hall with a group of men, scientists from a society with a mission to debunk spiritualism once and for all. They are going to hold a seance at the Hall, perform experiments and make their proof.
If you want to know more, you’ll have to read the book. It is a fairly quick read. I read it on the bus and during lunch at work. There were some tense moments but nothing that will give horrorphobes nightmares. This is not an oh my gosh you have to read it book. But if you are looking for a mystery a little different than the standard P.I. kind, it is an entertaining.