The Seance

Written by John Harwood
Review by Doug Kemp

This is an excellent Gothic tale set in the second half of 19th-century England. Narrated by a number of different characters, in language and style the novel is essentially Victorian, with a definite touch of M. R. James helping to generate a decidedly creepy atmosphere.

The story concerns the crumbling ruin of Wraxford Hall, near the Suffolk coast, and the supposed supernatural disappearance of previous owners and inhabitants of the house. There are two leading female characters – and here we are also in the familiar Victorian territory of inheritance, tenuous family links, with a strong seasoning of clairvoyance and spiritualism. Constance Langton, an orphan who seems to have some mediumistic powers, inherits Wraxford Hall and becomes involved in solving the odd circumstances of the disappearance of Eleanor, the estranged wife of the previous owner, Magnus Wraxford.

The plotting is superb and demands attention from an attentive reader to spot the nuances and hints dropped by the author. It is expertly paced and written to a high standard, with a series of mysteries propelling the reader along the road to a final understanding of events. The historical context is sound and authentic. A thoroughly enjoyable book.