The Seance

The Seance

3.6 121
by John Harwood
     
 

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A haunting tale of apparitions, a cursed manor house, and two generations of women determined to discover the truth, by the author of The Ghost Writer Sell the Hall unseen; burn it to the ground and plow the earth with salt, if you will; but never live there . . .” Constance Langton grows up in a household marked by death, her father distant, her mother in

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Overview

A haunting tale of apparitions, a cursed manor house, and two generations of women determined to discover the truth, by the author of The Ghost Writer Sell the Hall unseen; burn it to the ground and plow the earth with salt, if you will; but never live there . . .” Constance Langton grows up in a household marked by death, her father distant, her mother in perpetual mourning for Constance’s sister, the child she lost.Desperate to coax her mother back to health, Constance takes her to a séance: perhaps she will find comfort from beyond the grave. But the meeting has tragic consequences. Constance is left alone, her only legacy a mysterious bequest that will blight her life.
So begins The Séance, John Harwood’s brilliant second novel, a gripping, dark mystery set in late-Victorian England.
It is a world of apparitions, of disappearances and unnatural phenomena, of betrayal and blackmail and black-hearted villains—and murder. For Constance’s bequest comes in two parts: a house and a mystery. Years before, a family disappeared atWraxford Hall, a decaying mansion in the English countryside with a sinister reputation.Now the Hall belongs to Constance. And she must descend into the darkness at the heart of theWraxford Mystery to find the truth, even at the cost of her life.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Praise for The Ghost Writer

 

“Elegantly paced and delightfully macabre, [The Ghost Writer] celebrate[s] the Victorian school and its obsession with the past’s authority over the present, the thin line between affection and obsession, the glimpse of the lurid from the corner of the eye.”—Washington Post Book World

The Ghost Writer manages to evoke both the confident past and the more anguished present of the genre, and even to suggest, slyly, that although the illustrious tradition of the genteel British ghost story remains with us, we need to be very, very careful about disturbing its rest.”—New York Times Book Review

Publishers Weekly

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.)

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Library Journal

A lichen-laden manse in the foggy English countryside, rumors of mysterious dis-appearances, generations of damsels in distress, long-lost diaries revealing dangerous secrets-these elements of a first-class Victorian thriller are in Harwood's sophomore offering (after The Ghost Writer, the 2004 International Horror Guild Award winner for best first novel). Beginning with Constance Langton's narrative in 1889, Harwood reveals his creepy tale via the testimony of various characters whose veracity could be doubted. The plot is set in motion when Constance, who's been dabbling with psychics in a desperate attempt to ease her mother's anguish over the death of Constance's sister, inherits Wraxford Hall, a 20-year-old diary, and an admonition to burn the haunted mansion to the ground. But Constance, one of those plucky Victorian heroines readers love, is mesmerized by the diary's tale of murders, kidnappings, and strange scientific experiments that took place at the hall; she determines, despite personal risk, to unravel the mysteries. Harwood, who has been compared to Wilkie Collins, has crafted a fast-paced ghost story with an old-fashioned touch. Recommended for all public libraries.
—Sally Bissell

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780151012039
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
02/03/2009
Pages:
336
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)

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