The London Séance Society – Sarah Penner

Published By: Legend Press
Pages: 352
Released On: 21/03/2023

May mercy be upon the man who finds himself the enemy of a vengeful medium…

1873. At an abandoned château on the outskirts of Paris, a dark séance is about to take place, led by acclaimed spiritualist Vaudeline D’Allaire. Known worldwide for her talent in conjuring the spirits of murder victims to ascertain the identities of the people who killed them, she is highly sought after by widows and investigators alike.

Lenna Wickes has come to Paris to find answers about her sister’s death, but to do so, she must embrace the unknown and overcome her own logic-driven bias against the occult. When Vaudeline is beckoned to England to solve a high-profile murder, Lenna accompanies her as an understudy. But as the women team up with the powerful men of London’s exclusive Séance Society to solve the mystery, they begin to suspect that they are not merely out to solve a crime, but perhaps entangled in one themselves…


Thanks to NetGalley and Legend Press for the advanced copy of this title in return for an honest review.

I absolutely adored Sarah’s debut book The Lost Apothecary in 2021, and promised myself that I’d read whatever she wrote next so I was instantly excited about this. Whereas The Lost Apothecary is set between the past and the present, this book is all in the one time period. I wondered if it would be as interesting or gripping but I needn’t worried. It’s fabulous reading.

It is so absorbing and all encompassing. It might be set in the 1800s, but it feels so familiar and timeless. We’ll always love stories about vengeance about mystery and about love, no matter the setting.

History can be a bit dusty, a bit long and tiring, a bit dull, and it’s not for everyone. But Sarah manages to bring history to life, showing off all its dazzling qualities, and shows just how exciting history can be.

I love the exploration of women in this book. Women, especially in the 1800s, are often ignored, seen as not as important as men, subservient, quiet. But this book shows how powerful they can be, even in the darkest of situations, and prove that you should never underestimate them.

There are many characters but I’d say there were four main ones: Lenna, Evie, Vaudeline and Mr Morley. Lenna is a fabulous main character. She trusts others (sometimes to her detriment), she is passionate and honest and eager to make sure the dead are loved as much as the living. We only know Evie after her death. She seems very different to her sister Lenna, but at the same time, they both have this determination and passion for righting wrongs. Vaudeline is an interesting character. You’re not sure whether to trust her or believe her, but you can’t help but be fascinated by her and what she does. Mr Morley (I had a teacher once called Mr Morley which made me giggle) is a good old fashioned good cop/bad cop wrapped up in one single character. He may not always be the hero we want, but he is deliciously written.

I have always been someone who prefers character development over plot. And whereas this book does have some character development, especially with Lenna, the plot was so addictive I couldn’t put it down, I was so desperate to know what happened next. Sarah sure knows how to grab you and keep you hooked from the first to the last word.

It is so atmospheric and almost claustrophobic. The level of research I’m sure Sarah had to do to ensure everything is accurate to the time and period really pays off. It’s chilling, but friendly at the same time.

The world of spiritualism and ghosts and whatnot is a fascinating one, and one that causes many arguments. I, for one, do believe in ghosts and spirits and I don’t believe there’s a need to be afraid of them. This book was an interesting look into the world, and may even whet your appetite for more on the topic.

The only small criticism I have is that the surprises done really come until the last, say, 15-20%, and whilst that does give you time to get absorbed into the story, part of me would like to have had some of these twists dripped in carefully a little earlier. It doesn’t take anything away from the story though.

Although thematically I’d say I enjoyed The Lost Apothecary better, Sarah has nothing to worry about regarding the second novel syndrome (much like the second album syndrome, when you fear a second offering won’t hit the same heights as a successful debut). It’s as dazzling and absorbing as her debut, and I think she’s only going to get better.

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