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The Seance by John Harwood



The Seance


Reviewed by Gini Grossenbacher, M.S.

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John Harwood, the Australian author of The Ghost Writer, won the 2004 International Horror Guild Award for Best First Novel. Professor of English for twenty- five years, he has also published biography, political journalism, satire, and poetry. In the tradition of his first novel, he gives us The Séance, a gothic tale of suspense, mesmerism, and illusion, set in late Victorian England.

Told as a three-person narrative, the novel centers on Wraxford Hall, the wreckage of a once-magnificent Yorkshire mansion, reputedly built at the time of Henry VIII on the site of a former monastery. Surrounded by Monks’ Wood, legend states a ghostly monk haunts the grounds, protected by a pack of savage dogs ready to tear the intruder limb from limb. Wraxford Hall takes on a gritty persona as the setting of mysterious disappearances over the centuries and, in the novel, an eventual murder. The novel features the plight of the visionary Eleanor Unwin, who falls in love with artist Edward Ravenscroft, fond of painting many scenes of Wraxford Hall despite warnings of its menace. After Edward’s mysterious death during a thunderstorm on the grounds, Eleanor Unwin marries mesmerist Magnus Wraxford. Thus Eleanor finds herself and their child, Clara, inextricably bound to the mysterious house. Years later, orphaned Constance Langdon risks her own life at a séance at Wraxford Hall, and in the dramatic climax and denouement, the murderer and hidden identities are revealed.

John Harwood delights with continual suspense, evocative description, and gripping details of supernatural happenings and illusions. His novel unfolds as a tantalizing fan, revealing startling truths only at the very end.