Saturday, July 11, 2009
The Seance by John Harwood
Having read The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins for our mystery book group last month, I was in the mood for more gothic/Victorian suspense. Reviews I've read compare The Seance to The Woman in White and other "sensational" novels. This is one of those books that regular customers ask me if I've read and then say "you have to read it!"
I grew up reading Victoria Holt, Norah Lofts, Barbara Michaels, Phyllis A. Whitney, Mary Stewart, Jane Aiken Hodge, and Isabelle Holland's "gothic" romances. I loved the remote settings, the air of dread and the touch of romance.
The Seance is like that, but exceptionally well written, and the suspense level is considerably higher than in the old gothics. Crumbling Wraxford Hall with its secret passages, lightning rods, and ornamental coffin is one of the scariest places I've encountered in ages.
The motives of the villain and the delicate mental state of the narrators make it hard to guess what is really going on, and if there are supernatural events taking place or not.