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Review: The Spiritualist, by Megan Chance

One wintry evening in 1857, Evelyn Atherton allows her husband to convince her to attend a séance at the home of wealthy society lady Dorothy Bennett. When a gun misfires during the séance, Peter Atherton, a well-known lawyer and son of a wealthy New York family, determines to find out why. But soon after, Peter turns up dead, and Evelyn is the chief suspect. She then determines to find out who really killed her husband—and her suspicion immediately determines that Michel Jourdain, a famous medium, must be Peter’s killer.

There were a few things about Chance’s portrayal of New York in the mid-19th century that bothered me a bit. First, I thought it was a little odd how the society matrons welcomed Evelyn, an outcast, into their midst, without question. Second, the author is maddeningly unspecific when it comes to details about the city in that period. Where on Fifth Avenue, for example, was Dorothy Bennett’ house? (my best guess is near Washington or Union Square, since the wealthy elite hadn’t yet moved that far uptown). Also, I thought it was uncharacteristic for Evelyn to go by herself into what I assume, from the description the author gives us, is Five Points, though yet again, Chance is unspecific. Its like she didn’t really do her research in that aspect. Also, I thought the heroine was a little bit too gullible at times. So much for being the daughter of a private investigator.

However, I really enjoyed the mystery. It was extremely unusual, and even though I guessed pretty early on at what part of it was, the full thing came as a complete surprise. The way that each character managed to subtly manipulate one another was pretty ingenious, too. The best parts of this novel were the séances, and its fascinating how Evelyn transforms from being an unbeliever to a participant. Evelyn’s discoveries are unsettling, and that’s what’s so great about this book—nothing is what it seems. The book is fast-paced and enjoyable for the most part.


Anonymous said…
Thanks for the head's up. This one is on my nightstand and ready to go. I'm glad to know it was a quick read.
Anna said…
Sounds like an interesting book. I'm not an expert on history, but I would assume it's important to do research on the setting if you're writing historical fiction.

Anna Claire said…
Thanks for the recommendation. It's going on my TBR list.
Ladytink_534 said…
Nothing can yank you out of a book faster than a poorly researched book in a preious time period :(
Michelle Moran said…
Oh... my editor sent this to me several months ago and I'm ashamed to say I haven't gotten to it yet. I'm going to put this on the top of my TBR now :]

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