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The Crack Magazine

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The London Séance Society by Sarah Penner

Sarah Penner scored a big success with her debut novel ‘The Lost Apothecary’, a rollicking tale of vengeance set partly in the hidden depths of eighteenth-century London. The follow-up – a stand-alone work – is set in 1873 with the action kicking off in Paris. It’s here that a certain Vaudeline D’Allaire plies her trade. A noted spiritualist, the novel begins with D’Allaire rocking up at an abandoned chateau on the outskirts of the city. With her are a husband and wife who are seeking answers about their child, who was recently murdered. The pair contacted D’Allaire specifically as she is famed for her ability to get in touch with murder victims and then find out who murdered then. Also in the party is Lenna Wickes, an Englishwoman who is something of an understudy to D’Allaire. She is also keen on utilising D’Allaire’s talents, as she wants to find out who murdered her beloved sister, Evie. After this evocative preamble, the action switches to London. This is where the mysterious London Séance Society practise their shadowy trade and where Evie was killed. The Society is also dealing with the death of a Mr. M Volckman, former resident of Mayfair and their well-to-do President. It’s a set-up ripe for derring-do and Penner has enormous fun shuffling the narrative deck to keep things fresh and surprising. Also nicely handled is the burgeoning romantic relationship between Vaudeline D’Allaire and Lenna Wickes. The author gets extra points for including, in the appendix, recipes for Victorian hot punch and Victorian funeral biscuits, which, apparently, were a real thing (can’t wait to see ‘Victorian funeral biscuit’ week on The Great British Bake Off). RM

Legend Press

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