This was an airport bookstore grab on my birthday, one of those deals where if you bring it back within six months, you can get 50% of the cover price back. The London Séance Society will indeed be going back. It’s not a bad read or story, just not amazing enough to take up some of my limited shelf space. The alternating back and forth between two perspectives and narrators actually does some pretty cool stuff with unreliability; both narrators are but for very different reasons, both of which have to do with the core mystery: who killed Evie (and why)? The use of narrator switching to build tension is probably one of the best parts of the book.
The other best part is definitely the world of the story. It’s basically Victorian London with attention to the fascination with spiritualism, here mostly mediumship and seances. Thing is, those things are very much real and work in this version. There’s fakers and frauds too, which actually makes things more interesting, that bit of real and fantasy together. There’s a good bit of basis in real history and culture of the time, although the notes in the back don’t’ go into as much detail as they could.
Lenna is in search of her sister’s killer; she decides to go learn how to do seances from Evie’s former teacher Vaudeline (a famed spiritualist) so she can summon Evie’s spirit and find out what happened to her and why. Evie was totally into this stuff apparently, but Lenna is more skeptical. She’s into science, and she bonds with her best friend’s twin brother Stephen over geology (he likes her, but she’s not as interested). Vaudeline knows most of this, but she also sees that Lenna’s willing to try, and might actually have some talent. The two of them go back to London because Vaudeline’s been called back to help the London Seance Society solve a murder of a mutual friend, Mr. Volkerman. Naturally, the investigations collide and adventure and danger ensues.
The problem for me is that the narrators Lenna and Mr. Morely (a Society officer who contacts Vaudeline) don’t really have individual voices. I can’t quite figure out how or why, but they’ve got their personalities clearly enough but they don’t sound that different telling their sides of the story. I think it’s got something to do with how Morley’s first person narration still sounds a lot like the third person narration used for Lenna’s perspective.