The London Séance Society by Sarah Penner
Seances, spiritualism, murder and Victorian London: how could it get better? Add a young woman who is skeptical of all of this and yet becomes embroiled in sinister paranormal plots with a touch of romance and it all comes together nicely.
This fantasy/mystery has the added cachet of being set in Victorian London and placed within a world of mystics, psychics and charlatans. The combination works nicely to heighten the suspense with a darkness that pervades even the lightest of passages. Spiritualism was an obsession of the British during this time and it’s to this fetishism that the protagonist owes the motivation for a search that surprises her skeptic nature. Lenna Wickes is a young woman whose beliefs are rooted in science but whose younger sister, Evie, is a devotee of the spectral world. She spends her time visiting mediums and séance purveyors, gathering objects said to have psychic power and studying the methods of the London Séance Society, a men’s-only club dedicated to paranormal pursuits.
Evie is brutally murdered, apparently in the family garden and her notebook which contains the intelligence she’s gathered on the spiritualists of London has disappeared. Lenna is stricken to recall that their last words were exchanged in anger over Evie’s dedication to a discipline Lenna disdains as popular foolishness. In an attempt to discover not only whether it is possible to contact lost loved ones but also to find the perpetrators of the vile crime Lenna travels to Paris to become an understudy to Vaudeline D’Allaire, the woman generally acknowledged to be the premier medium on the continent. She finds that she has an unexpected talent for mediumship and begins to consider whether or not she has misjudged the practice.
Vaudeline and Lenna return to London to begin an investigation of the possible illicit schemes of the Society and become entangled in sinister plots involving blackmail, fraud and murder. Peril builds upon peril culminating in a denouement worthy of any whodunit with all the nail-biting and stomach-butterflies attendant to a good mystery. Lots of fun for fans of the two genres or anyone looking for an exciting escape for a few hours.