The Seance is a dark, Gothic tale, set in Victorian England. The central character is Constance, who on becoming an orphan, begins to suspect that her family history is not as simple as she was led to believe. She inherits a crumbling, country house called Wraxford Hall, which is central to the book’s plot; it’s eerie, dilapidated state adds to the mysterious atmosphere. Constance vows to discover the truth behind her ancestry, and unravel the mysterious events which have taken place in the house.
The book is full of things which cannot be explained. Why does anyone who see the ghost of a monk in the grounds of the house die within a month? Why have previous owners of the mansion disappeared in thunderstorms? and what role does the suit of armor play in it all?
I loved the historical detail in the book. The Victorians’ understanding of the spirit world was fascinating, and very well researched. I felt totally immersed in the world of clairvoyants and mysticism. Constance’s character behaved realistically, and I quickly grew to love her.
I didn’t find it very scary, (perhaps that’s because I read Blindness recently!) but it was definitely a bit creepy. It was a real page turner, and there were times when I had to stop myself from racing ahead to find out what happens. There was the odd occasion when I lost myself a little bit by doing this, and had to re-read sections to understand exactly what was going on. This was only a minor flaw, and probably due to the fact that it is so tightly plotted. I didn’t spot many of the clever twists, although there were a few that I saw a mile away!
This is a well constructed, Gothic mystery which I recommend to anyone who likes reading about Victorian life, or who is just after a well written story, packed with secrets.
I haven’t read John Harwood’s first novel, The Ghost Writer, but I’ve added it to my wish list already.