Penner (The Lost Apothecary, 2021) returns to a historical setting--this time 1873--to tell the story of a young woman seeking to solve her sister's mysterious death by any means necessary. Lenna Wickes is a logical skeptic devastated by grief after her sister Evie's death. She apprentices herself to famous Parisian medium Vaudeline D'Allaire, who contacts the spirits of recent murder victims to find their killers. Evie studied with the alluring Vaudeline before taking an independent interest in the doings of the London Séance Society, where she discovered fraudulent practices. When Vaudeline is called to London to pursue contact with a recent murder victim on behalf of the society, Lenna travels with her hoping to find answers. The reader learns more problematic details about the society by alternating between Lenna and society member Mr. Morley's points of view. Retracing her sister's steps, Lenna discovers that the corruption goes much deeper than simply faking contact with the recently deceased, and it's probable that Evie's investigations led to her death--which also places Lenna and Vaudeline in peril. A great choice for fans of historical European settings, the power of women, and the fringes of the paranormal.
Despite her skepticism and penchant for logic, Lenna Wickes travels to Paris to study under esteemed spiritualist Vaudeline D'Allaire after her sister is murdered in London. When the president of the renowned gentleman's club known as the London Séance Society is also murdered, Vaudeline is called upon by society member Mr. Morley to conduct a séance back in London. The women are swept up in a dangerous mystery full of supernatural intrigue, trickery, and illusion, where only the dead can provide the answers they seek. Narration performances are astounding and perfectly suited for the dual narrative of Lenna and Mr. Morley. Lenna and Vaudeline are played with delightfully distinct British and French accents by Lauren Irwin, while the stuffy British Mr. Morley is impeccably portrayed by Alex Wyndham. The narration brings to life the era-specific atmosphere and vocalizes the characters' varying emotions, ranging from extreme tension and anger to softer, more sensual moments. VERDICT Penner (The Lost Apothecary) proves herself again to be a writer to watch. Recommend to fans of historical fiction, especially Victorian-era stories, who enjoy elements of the supernatural. Irwin's and Wyndham's theatrical performances make this a must-listen.--Meghan Bouffard
Penner (The Lost Apothecary) delivers another captivating feminist gothic tale. The story begins with a midnight séance in 1873 Paris, hosted by Vaudeline D'Allaire, a celebrated medium known for getting murder victims to pinpoint their killers. Vaudeline has fled London under mysterious circumstances, in the company of skeptical Lenna Wickes, who's convinced the other woman to let her be an apprentice. Lenna's true motivation is to unravel the sudden death of her sister, Evie, a burgeoning medium and student of D'Allaire's, which occurred on All Hallow's Eve. In a parallel narrative, Mr. Morley, director of the London Séance Society, is occupied with another puzzling death that also occurred on All Hallow's Eve, that of society president Mr. Volckman. Under the pretense of hosting a séance to ascertain the identity of Mr. Volckman's killer, Mr. Morley offers Lenna and Vaudeline a chance to return to London, by inviting them into the Séance Society's all-male club. The two accept with the hopes of conjuring up details of Evie's murder. As the well-paced adventure reaches an explosive climax, Lenna uncovers more about the London Séance Society's illusions and comes to terms with her sexuality. A late-breaking romance involving Lenna and Vaudeline feels underdeveloped, but otherwise Penner expertly fits the pieces together. Fans of the genre will eat this up. Agent: Stephanie Lieberman, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (Apr.)