Title: The Seance
Author: John Harwood
Release Date: February 3, 2009
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genre: Mystery, Historical Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
From the dust jacket:
Constance Langton grows up in a household marked by death, her father distant, her mother in perpetual mourning for Constance’s sister, the child she lost. Desperate to coax her mother back to health, Constance takes her to a séance: perhaps she will find comfort from beyond the grave. But the meeting has tragic consequences. Constance is left alone, her only legacy a mysterious bequest that will blight her life.
So begins The Seance, John Harwood’s brilliant second novel, a gripping gothic thriller set in late-Victorian England. It is a world of apparitions, of disappearances and unnatural phenomena, of betrayal and blackmail and black-hearted villains—and murder. For Constance’s bequest comes in two parts: a house and a mystery. Years before, a family disappeared at Wraxford Hall, a decaying mansion in the English countryside with a sinister reputation. Now the Hall belongs to Constance. And she must descend into the darkness at the heart of the Wraxford Mystery to find the truth, even at the cost of her life.
I really think gothic mysteries might be my new favorite genre. I love the haunting quality to these books, the spookiness and suspense. John Harwood’s The Seance is definitely one of the best gothic mysteries I’ve read. The novel keeps the reader hooked from the very first page, enthralled in the mystery of Wraxford Hall.
Harwood’s vivid descriptions make Victorian England come to life. The reader can see the desolation of Wraxford Hall, feel the closeness of the Monk’s Wood and sense the fear surrounding the entire mystery of what happened at the derelict estate. There were parts of the book that had my heart racing as I frantically read in order to find out what would happen next. The entire novel was so haunting and so enjoyably creepy that the reader can’t help but lose him/herself within its pages. This really is the genre at its best.
I also loved the details about the period and how Harwood stays true to Victorian England. Constance’s search for the truth about Wraxford Hall is hampered by the fact she is a single woman. She’s really a great character, determined to uncover the truth of the matter. I like the fact that she is independent and refuses to be deterred by anyone, no matter how much they try to dissuade her from her course.
The Seance is an extremely enjoyable novel that I highly recommend. If you are a fan of gothic mysteries, this one won’t disappoint and if you haven’t read any gothic mysteries? The Seance is a wonderful place to start!