cover image The London Séance Society

The London Séance Society

Sarah Penner. Park Row, $28.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-7783-8711-4

Penner (The Lost Apothecary) delivers another captivating feminist gothic tale. The story begins with a midnight séance in 1873 Paris, hosted by Vaudeline D’Allaire, a celebrated medium known for getting murder victims to pinpoint their killers. Vaudeline has fled London under mysterious circumstances, in the company of skeptical Lenna Wickes, who’s convinced the other woman to let her be an apprentice. Lenna’s true motivation is to unravel the sudden death of her sister, Evie, a burgeoning medium and student of D’Allaire’s, which occurred on All Hallow’s Eve. In a parallel narrative, Mr. Morley, director of the London Séance Society, is occupied with another puzzling death that also occurred on All Hallow’s Eve, that of society president Mr. Volckman. Under the pretense of hosting a séance to ascertain the identity of Mr. Volckman’s killer, Mr. Morley offers Lenna and Vaudeline a chance to return to London, by inviting them into the Séance Society’s all-male club. The two accept with the hopes of conjuring up details of Evie’s murder. As the well-paced adventure reaches an explosive climax, Lenna uncovers more about the London Séance Society’s illusions and comes to terms with her sexuality. A late-breaking romance involving Lenna and Vaudeline feels underdeveloped, but otherwise Penner expertly fits the pieces together. Fans of the genre will eat this up. Agent: Stephanie Lieberman, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (Apr.)