The Seance by John Harwood
Wraxford Hall, a decaying mansion in the English countryside, has a sinister reputation. Once, a family disappeared there. And now Constance Langton has inherited this dark place as well as the mysteries surrounding it. Having grown up in a house marked by the death of her sister, Constance is no stranger to mystery, secrets, and the dark magic around us. Her father was distant. Her mother was in perpetual mourning for her lost child. In a desperate attempt to coax her mother back to health, Constance took her to a seance hoping she would find supernatural comfort. But tragic consequences followed, leaving her alone in the world– alone with Wraxford Hall. Saddled with this questionable bequest, she must find the truth at the heart of all these disappearances, apparitions, betrayal, blackmail, and villainy, even if it costs her life. John Harwood’s second novel delivers on the great promise proven by his first with this gripping mystery set in the heart of Victorian England. (via Goodreads)
I wish I could remember where I came across mention of this book. It happened in October, because it wasn’t in my What Else in September post and I haven’t known about it longer than that. When I saw it was available from the Phoenix Digital Library, I nabbed it without realizing that I had read Harwood’s The Ghost Writer.
The Seance starts with a quote from Elijah Farrington’s Revelations of a Spirit Medium. I wasn’t expecting this book to automatically ground itself in the non-paranormal, and while I was looking for a good creepy read, I wasn’t disheartened by that. I wasn’t disappointed either. The Seance is full of atmosphere. It starts slow, but by the end I was talking to the book, trying to convince the character that their plans were bad, bad ideas. In some books, that reaction might indicate frustration with characters; that the characters are acting stupidly. In The Seance, it felt more like inevitability. The characters had no choice except to do what they were doing.
After re-reading my impressions of The Ghost Writer (it’s been over five years), I have to say that The Seance seemed much more solidly put together than Harwood’s first novel. That great Hammer horror feel is still there–a set piece of the novel is a suit of plate mail in a ruined manor surrounded by dark misty woods and the plot is labyrinthine–but the events of The Seance are more clear, even when one of the characters is being deceptive.
The Seance was pretty much the perfect book for me to read last week on the heels of a pretty disappointing similar book. (The review of that book will be up in a couple weeks.) I wasn’t entirely sold on Hardwood before, but I’ll be taking a look at The Asylum in the future.
Genre: Gothic horror.
Why did I choose to read this book? Well, I am writing about seances and stuff.
Did I finish this book? (If not, why?) Heck, yeah!
Craft Lessons: More mysterious suits of armor.
Format: In-Browser ebook.
Procurement: Greater Phoenix Digital Library