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Archive for August 17th, 2008

The Spiritualist
By Megan Chance
Crown Publishing/Three River Press
Copyright 2008
ISBN: 978-0-307-40611-8
Historical Suspense

4 Stars

www.meganchance.com

It is 19th-Century New York City. The protagonist, young and ambitious Evie, is the daughter of an educated, working class detective. Smarter and more feminist than the regular women of her time, Evie wishes to be respected not only as a lady but also intellectually.

One day Evie meets a wealthy man named Peter Atherton. Peter seems to admire Evie’s witty and independent personality and after a short time asks her hand in marriage. Thus, Evie is introduced to the high society of NY and all it has to offer. Her new in-laws tolerate her and secretly resent her.

Soon after their marriage, Evie learns that Peter has been regularly attending a series of nightly spiritual sessions at the home of a highly respected society lady. One night Peter asks Evie to go with him. Evie is also surprised by the fact that Peter believes the medium is for real. Skeptical yet curious, Evie accepts. During the session, a gun is shot, yet no one is sure who fired it or to whom it was meant. What’s more, the medium turns out to be the most fascinating, charismatic man Evie’s has ever met. Then Peter disappears and a few days later, his body is found in the river. Evie is arrested for his murder, and the only one who believes in her innocence is Peter’s best friend. Will they find the truth before Evie is sentenced to death?

The novel, combining a Victorian setting and the paranormal, is strongly atmospheric. Perhaps this atmosphere of mystery and threat is the best aspect of the story. Evie’s character is sympathetic and the medium, Michel Jourdain, is particularly enigmatic in both his physique and personality. I would say this is the character that carries the plot the most, even more than Evie. The author maintains a good pace but at times the dialogue is long and repetitive of facts the reader already knows. The ending is a little predictable, but this is a well-written novel that will be enjoyed by most fans of historical suspense fiction.

–Mayra Calvani
*Originally published in Armchair Interviews.

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