The Seance

John Harwood, Author . Houghton Mifflin Harcourt $25 (328p) ISBN 978-0-15-101203-9

Set in Victorian England, Harwood's spellbinding second novel (after The Ghost Writer) pays homage to such 19th-century suspense masters as Wilkie Collins and Sheridan LeFanu. When orphaned gentlewoman Constance Langton inherits Wraxford Hall, a derelict mansion on the Suffolk coast, from an aunt she has never met, the lawyer handling the conveyance warns her to sell the hall unseen. When he sends her a bundle of documents concerning the home's history of death, madness and occult apparitions, Constance feels a deep affinity for Nell Wraxford, who disappeared from the hall with her infant daughter years earlier under suspicion of murdering her enigmatic husband, Magnus. Hoping to clear Nell's name, Constance visits the hall with a group of psychic researchers. Harwood invokes the hoariest clichés of supernatural suspense, from stormy nights to haunted houses, and effortlessly makes them his own. The novel's voice, too, is superbly crafted, accurate for the period but never self-consciously antique. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 12/01/2008
Release date: 02/01/2009
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 304 pages - 978-0-224-08187-0
Paperback - 328 pages - 978-0-547-24782-3
Hardcover - 521 pages - 978-1-4104-1764-0
Hardcover - 293 pages - 978-0-224-08186-3
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