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The Seance by John Harwood
#1
I wonder if any other members have read this book and what they thought of it?

I read reviews before it was released in the US, forgot about it, and then ran across it on Amazon a few weeks ago. It has tons of international rave reviews, mostly due to it being an homage to the type of Gothic novels actually written in the late 19th century, like Wilkie Collins and Henry James, among others.

The novel is structured so that our heroine Constance Langton, who opens the novel, is off stage for the bulk of it while she reads a series of journals and diaries by people involved in the mysterious disappearances as Wraxford Hall. Part One was very promising, but it after that the book dragged and was hard to follow until she returned to pick up the tale in Part Six. Ultimately, the bulk of the action and plot is delayed until Part Six, so for me this was not a page turner.

Once the story kicks in, we have possibly the most derelict and creepy country mansion ever, endless rain, mud, haunting in Monk's Wood, and an insidiously evil Mesmerist conducting an scientific seance experiment. The author pours on the Gothic tropes during part six, with lots of action and dialogue. A lot of the story reminded me of Kirkland Revels by Victoria Holt, with it's ruined abbey and disappearances in the Minstrel's gallery.

I'm a very picky reader, ultimately I was disappointed in this book, but would be curious to see what others think.
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#2
I read his first book, The Ghost Writer. I'll have to review that one although it's been awhile since I've read it.
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#3
I've just read this book and intended to write a review before rereading yours, but I didn't know where to start. So I had a peek and was grateful you told so much already and now I'll just say what I thought of the book.

Such a lot was happening that I couldn't see the direction where the story would be going. Looking at the title and the heroine mentioning séances in her very first sentence, I expected it to be a ghost story. Next it seemed more Frankenstein-ish and Poe-ish. Whitechapel was mentioned. It's a mystery, a crime story, it's all of the above.

I actually didn't care for the first part of the book and I usually dislike having to read stories by multiple protagonists, but in this case, it worked very well. I'm glad I didn't give up after that first part. In fact, it got better and better and I couldn't put the book away till I found out how everything connected. I was afraid a lot of things might be left unexplained or turn out to be contrived, but I'm happy to report I wasn't disappointed. We will be led astray on a few occasions, but a few red herrings won't harm.

Here's the setting:
Quote:John Montague's description had not prepared me for the sheer size of the Hall, or for the profusion of attics and gables, none of them level or square. There was not a straight line to be seen; everything seemed to have bowed or sagged or cracked; the walls were no longer a dingy green, but black with lichen and mildew, and all along the ground beneath, fragments of masonry lay heaped among the weeds.
Eerie, right? The inside is even worse. I wish there had been a little drawing of the lay-out of the house; this could have helped a lot picturing the events taking place in the gallery, the library and the rest of the mansion. It was described early on, of course, but then I wasn't paying so much attention as I didn't know it would become important.

I loved the pace of the story, I loved the prose and the dialogue, I came to understand the people, I got the mood, so I'm very positive: a 9 out of 10.


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