|The London Séance Society / Sarah Penner|
TO: Park Row, c2023
I picked this up because of the description; Victorian England, a medium involved in a mystery, a secret society...lots to intrigue a reader! But I wish I'd liked it more. In the end, I kept reading to find out what happened to the characters, but found the writing style and the plotting a bit weak.
Lenna is a young woman who is a bit sceptical about the spirit world. But her younger sister Evie has recently died, and so Lenna travels to Paris to study with famed spiritualist Vaudeline D’Allaire, who Evie had also worked with. There's more than a simple student-teacher relationship brewing between them, when Vaudeline is called back to London (all hush-hush) to hold a seance at the secret society that had been the reason she left England in the first place.
The story is told from the perspectives of Lenna and of one of the Directors of the London Seance Society. The book flips between chapters from both views, so the reader knows a lot more about what's going on than the characters do. This sort of works, but she gives away the game pretty early on, so any suspense that might have been built falls a bit flat. There is action, and some good set pieces, and lots of angsty relational drama, but the villain is clear early on, and you know that they'll get their comeuppance by the end.
I found this an interesting read but a bit underwhelming. Plot holes abound, the main one being what my husband likes to call The Poirot Conundrum -- ie, why did the villain call in the detective to begin with? The villain could have finished everyone off pretty early on if they weren't so obsessed with symbolism and making a statement before taking care of business. Still, as a melodramatic Victorian gothic with lots of mystery and atmosphere, this one was pretty good. Not that memorable after the fact, though.