A Selection of Barnes & Noble Recommends
Artfully re-creating 19th-century supernatural suspense, The Séance offers a near-total immersion into a haunted Bloomsbury world.
"If my sister Alma had lived, I should never have begun the séances." Constance Langton was only five when her life changed irrevocably. With the death of her younger sibling, the Langton household descended into a deep melancholy. To relieve her mother's sorrow, Constance resorts to a common Victorian nostrum: spiritualism. That decision leads to more tragedy, plunging the young woman into a borderline world where apparitions, possession, and murder hover in the air. This evocative tale by the International Horror Guild Awardwinning author of The Ghost Writer is a perfect fit for readers of G. R. James and Wilkie Collins.
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.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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.
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