The London Séance Society by Sarah Penner – ARC Review!

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…

Susan and I buddy read this and, overall, we’re disappointed with the execution.

Lenna Wickes travelled to Paris to search for answers around her sisters untimely death, but it’s only once she returns to London that the pieces start falling into place. The London Seance Society, a place for men and men alone, have asked Vaudeline D’Allaire, known spiritualist to return to London to perform a seance for her old friend who died under suspicious circumstances, but there are darker things afoot. Danger and deception lie at the heart of the Society, and before long Lenna and Vaudeline find themselves solving not one but two murders, whilst putting their own lives on the line in the process.

I really enjoyed The Lost Apothecary by Penner when I read it last year, and expected something along the same vein with this. Unfortunately, this book just didn’t hit the spot for me and, although there were parts that I enjoyed, the majority of the book didn’t make up for them.

The most interesting character was the man… which kind of says it all when this book is supposed to be centred around women. The POV’s shift between Lenna and Mr Morley. Lenna is someone who has not always believed in the spiritual, but when her sister was found murdered, she delved into that world desperate for answers as to her sisters death and finds herself working with Vaudeline, the spiritualist who used to mentor her sister. She still see’s herself as an outsider to the spiritual world, but knows that the best way to get answers to her sisters death is to learn the craft and then return home and perform a seance, hoping to get the answers she needs. Lenna’s internal monologue was startlingly boring in parts and overly repetitive, and because of this I struggled to empathise with her as a character. She lacked any true depth and read as incredibly shallow. Mr Morley however, was as scheming and nasty as they come, but he was written incredibly well and his scenes and POV added to the mystery as well as the sinister nature of the book. He works at the London Seance Society and is in charge of the Seance’s themselves, working out who goes to which Seance, which ones are performed etc. He is a shallow and self centered man, not at all likeable, and yet he reads as infinitely more interesting that Lenna herself.

The story was a little repetitive in parts, and the pacing was almost non-existent. There were big lulls in the story and then a hurrah moment, followed by more lulls making it hard to stay invested. The mystery weaving through the story focuses on Lenna’s sister, as well as Mr Volkberg the man whose Seance Vauldeline has come back to London to perform, but alongside that there was the mystery of the London Seance Society itself. A place that supposedly holds itself to the highest moral standards, but is corrupt and filled with a sinister underbelly. There were parts of this mystery that I loved, and some parts that I felt just went a little too far, a little too sinister and I don’t feel that they were needed to keep the atmosphere of the story, but rather they actually drew me out a little.

There were a few plot twists thrown throughout that helped the story along and managed to pick up the pace a little, but the shining star of this story for me was the ending. Not the actual, The End, but rather the penultimate almost battle scene. This scene was where Penner’s writing shone, it was incredibly tense and creepy in the best way, and pretty much the only part of the book where I felt the female characters had the upper hand, could see their stories changing and I found myself glued to it. It was perfectly done, and for those who like a little vengeance to the men that have wronged us, this is a scene you would adore. Unfortunately, this scene did not make up for the other 80% of the story. The other part I found interesting, and enjoyed learning about, was the Seance’s themselves. Penner spends a large amount of time going into the planning behind the Seance’s, the steps needed to make it work, and this added a small but fantastical element to the story that I appreciated.

There was a f/f romance in this book but, because the female characters didn’t really stand out, I didn’t really feel it. I also felt like it added nothing to the story, and it just seemed to crop up at random moments of the story. As a whole this was definitely a bit of a meh read for me. There were certainly parts I enjoyed but, as a whole, the story just didn’t work and instead of the focus being on women getting vengeance (which I think the author was aiming for), it ended up being more about scheming and sinister men.

4 replies »

    • Thank you! I think it just didn’t live up to the premise for me, and with the Last Apothecary having women so much at the forefront, I was a little disappointed at how flat their character were in this one 😍

      Liked by 1 person

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