The Visitant: A Venetian Ghost Story

Written by Megan Chance
Review by Caroline Wilson

The Visitant: A Venetian Ghost Story is a wonderfully drawn Gothic tale. The novel follows a disgraced Elena Spira to Venice in 1884 as she seeks to redeem her family. She carries many secrets with her, and must work to keep them hidden as she attends the ailing Samuel Farber. She has been tasked with keeping his secret safe, and nursing him to health so that he may return to America for an arranged marriage. He proves to be a truculent patient, and Elena must fight him and the dark forces residing in the crumbling Casa Basilio, all while evading the alluring stares of the casa’s owner, Nero Basilio.

Megan Chance is one of the few accomplished historical fiction writers specializing in Gothic novels. The Visitant evokes everything that is wonderful in the genre: secretive characters, an old house, and of course, ghosts and demons. In many ways it echoes Henry James’ Turn of the Screw. Chance excels at drawing the reader into the plot without giving much away, which leaves one guessing right up to the end. She also has created wonderfully nuanced characters in this novel. Elena, Samuel, and Nero all at times seem despicable, and yet they evoke sympathy. Elena is riddled with guilt over her past decisions and yet she longs to set free to live life as she sees fit. Yet she becomes embroiled in an ill-advised romantic relationship with Nero, who is all charm and deception. It is heartbreaking to see her realize the truth only to discover that she has given her heart away to the wrong person yet again.

The Visitant will keep readers turning pages well into the night and is recommended for lovers of general historic fiction who like the draw of the supernatural and a dash of romance on the side.