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Cover of The London Seance Society by Sarah PennerThe London Séance Society

by Sarah Penner

GENRE: Historical Fiction, Fantasy

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. With shared determination, the women find companionship that perhaps borders on something more. And as they 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...

Discussion Guide

Close-up of Sarah Penner Author Biography

Sarah Penner is the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of The Lost Apothecary which will be translated into forty languages worldwide and is set to be turned into a drama series by Fox. Sarah spent thirteen years in corporate finance and now writes full-time. She and her husband live in Florida. - HarperCollins

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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.

Library Journal

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

Publisher's Weekly

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.)


Cover of A Dreadful Splendor by B. R. MyersA Dreadful Splendor
by B. R. Myers

In Victorian London, Genevieve Timmons poses as a spiritualist to swindle wealthy mourners—until one misstep lands her in a jail cell awaiting the noose. Then a stranger arrives to make her a peculiar offer. The lord he serves, Mr. Pemberton, has been inconsolable since the tragic death of his beautiful bride-to-be. If Genevieve can perform a séance persuasive enough to bring the young lord peace, she will win her freedom.

Soothing a grieving nobleman should be easy for someone of Genevieve’s skill, but when she arrives at the grand Somerset Park estate, Mr. Pemberton is not the heartbroken lover she expected. The surly—yet exceedingly handsome—gentleman is certain that his fiancée was murdered, even though there is no evidence. Only a confession can bring justice now, and Mr. Pemberton decides Genevieve will help him get it. With his knowledge of the household and her talent for illusion, they can stage a haunting so convincing it will coax the killer into the light. However, when frightful incidents befall the manor, Genevieve realizes her tricks aren’t required after all. She may be a fake, but Somerset’s ghost could be all too real.

Cover of A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry ThomasA Study in Scarlet Women
by Sherry Thomas

With her inquisitive mind, Charlotte Holmes has never felt comfortable with the demureness expected of the fairer sex in upper class society. But even she never thought that she would become a social pariah, an outcast fending for herself on the mean streets of London.

When the city is struck by a trio of unexpected deaths and suspicion falls on her sister and her father, Charlotte is desperate to find the true culprits and clear the family name. She’ll have help from friends new and old—a kind-hearted widow, a police inspector, and a man who has long loved her.

But in the end, it will be up to Charlotte, under the assumed name Sherlock Holmes, to challenge society’s expectations and match wits against an unseen mastermind.

Cover of The Spectacular by Fiona DavisThe Spectacular
by Fiona Davis

New York City, 1956: Nineteen-year-old Marion Brooks knows she should be happy. Her high school sweetheart is about to propose and sweep her off to the life everyone has always expected they’d have together: a quiet house in the suburbs, Marion staying home to raise their future children. But instead, Marion finds herself feeling trapped. So when she comes across an opportunity to audition for the famous Radio City Rockettes—the glamorous precision-dancing troupe—she jumps at the chance to exchange her predictable future for the dazzling life of a performer.

Meanwhile, the city is reeling from a string of bombings orchestrated by a person the press has nicknamed the “Big Apple Bomber,” who has been terrorizing the citizens of New York for sixteen years by planting bombs in popular, crowded spaces. With the public in an uproar over the lack of any real leads after a yearslong manhunt, the police turn in desperation to Peter Griggs, a young doctor at a local mental hospital who espouses a radical new technique: psychological profiling.

As both Marion and Peter find themselves unexpectedly pulled in to the police search for the bomber, Marion realizes that as much as she’s been training herself to blend in—performing in perfect unison with all the other identical Rockettes—if she hopes to catch the bomber, she’ll need to stand out and take a terrifying risk. In doing so, she may be forced to sacrifice everything she’s worked for, as well as the people she loves the most.