The Séance by John Harwood
The Séance is similar in tone to The Thirteenth Tale and shares a sad family mystery at its heart. The Séance is very Victorian, and though I usually don't enjoy the time period too much, I was able to look past the few obviously Victorian elements (woman meets man and decides within the space of an afternoon that they are meant to be, they get engaged days later; woman is overcome by fear / stress / shock and swoons). The heroine of the story is Constance Langton, raised in a sad, quiet life by a father so distracted by his work that he might as well be completely absent and a mother so blinded by grief for Constance's sister who died at age two that she might as well be alone in all the world. Constance drifts through life, mostly ignored, until developing a curiosity about séances and spiritualism in her late teens.
It begins as an attempt to coax her mother out of mourning for the dead child, Alma, but all of Constance's good intentions go tragically awry. I won't spoil it, but basically the next few years' events set up what will become the main thrust of the story. One day, while living with her uncle and still lacking purpose, Constance is informed that a distant relative she's never heard of has left her a crumbling mansion, Wraxford Hall. The lawyer who delivers the bequest tells her that she may do with the property as she wishes, but he begs her to never live there, and encourages her to sell it sight unseen. Instead, Constance becomes intrigued and begins to investigate the history of the house.
Constance begins to uncover the bizarre events that supposedly took place at Wraxford Hall many years ago, and as she immerses herself in the mystery, the story really takes off. I won't summarize it, but I will say that it is dark and interesting and at times a bit strange. There's a twist ending that I didn't see coming, too, which is always a nice surprise. If you've read and enjoyed The Thirteenth Tale, give The Séance a try. If you haven't read The Thirteenth Tale, read both!
Labels: John Harwood