The Ghost Writer and The Seance by John Harwood Reviewed!

Gerard Freeman, at age ten, sneaks into his mother's room and unlocks a secret drawer, only to find a picture of a woman he has never seen before, but one that he will find again and again. His mother discovers him and gives him the beating of his life. Why this excessive reaction? She is a worried, paranoid, thin, and fretful type with an "anxious, haunted look." By tale's end, we know why.

Phyllis Freeman, Gerard's mother, was happiest when speaking fondly of Staplefield, her childhood home, where there were things they "didn't have in Mawson [Australia], chaffinches and mayflies and foxgloves and hawthorn, coopers and farriers and old Mr. Bartholomew who delivered fresh milk and eggs to their house with his horse and cart." It's the sort of childhood idyll that the timid and lonely Gerard believes in and longs for. He strikes up a correspondence with an English "penfriend," Alice Jessel, when he is 13 and a half, living in a desolate place with a frantic mother and a silent father. She is his age, her parents were killed in an accident and she has been crippled by it. She now lives in an institution, whose grounds she describes as much the way Staplefield looked. They go through young adulthood together, in letters only, thousands of miles apart, eventually declaring their love for one another.

I enjoyed 'The Ghost Writer' so very much. It is a charming ghost story, a wonderful pre-pubescent beginnings of puppy love and a friendship that develops and sparks into a possible love story later on. There are twists, turns, and much talk of their favorite books and paintings which I really loved. A nod and mention of Pre-Raphaelite art and Alfred Tennyson's poetry always guaranteed to put a smile on my face. Although, Gerard's mother is  a true tyrant as he and Alice peel back the layers to her sub-plot story, Harwood truly surprised me!  I highly recommend this different type of ghost story to anyone who loves an old fashioned and refreshing ghost story that we just don't find very much anymore! 
A haunting tale of apparitions, a cursed manor house, and two generations of women determined to discover the truth. "Sell the Hall unseen; burn it to the ground and plow the earth with salt, if you will; but never live there . . .” Constance Langton grows up in a household marked by death, her father distant, her mother in perpetual mourning for Constance’s sister, the child she lost. Desperate to coax her mother back to health, Constance takes her to a séance: perhaps she will find comfort from beyond the grave. But the meeting has tragic consequences. Constance is left alone, her only legacy a mysterious bequest that will blight her life.

It is a world of apparitions, of disappearances and unnatural phenomena, of betrayal and blackmail and black-hearted villains—and murder. For Constance’s bequest comes in two parts: a house and a mystery. Years before, a family disappeared at Wraxford Hall, a decaying mansion in the English countryside with a sinister reputation.Now the Hall belongs to Constance. And she must descend into the darkness at the heart of theWraxford Mystery to find the truth, even at the cost of her life.
Now, this is exactly the type of dark Victorian Gothic novel I can fall into…
In order to solve this ghostly mystery you must meet five characters beginning with protagonist, Constance Langton, John Montague (in two parts), Nell Wraxford, and Eleanor Unwin. They will appear in all six parts of The Séance where you will find yourself asking why the ghost of a monk on the grounds of Wraxford Hall results in death to those who see it? Why previous owners of Wraxford Hall disappear in thunderstorms? What role does the suit of armor play in it all?

The Séance deals with orphan, Constance Langton who has suspicions that there is more to her family history than she believes. With the inheritance of a crumbling mansion, Wraxford Hall, which is central to the plot and premise, she discovers the truth behind her ancestry and the mysterious events that take place in and around Wraxford Hall.

The Séance provides Victorian chills and a sense of eeriness and forboding that has come to be expected in these novels. John Harwood writes a delicious and creepy tale; not really scary to myself but it is filled with twists and turns, mysterious deaths and disappearances, ghostly apparitions, and I loved it all. One glaring flaw might have been the predictability of a love interest for one of the characters. He appears late in the story and nothing very surprising comes of it but there must be a love angle I suppose!


Laura Morrigan said…
I loved both these books, especially The Ghost Writer, oh that horrible twist! But I can't say anymore in case anyone reads my comment. :)
Pamela Britley said…
I loved The Asylum and I've read The Ghost Writer but I missed The Seance somehow. I'll definitely read it with the lights on!
Kimberly Eve said…
Hi Laura,
I know, that twist. I should have seen it coming but I didn't. I was so wrapped up in the story :) Thank you for stopping by and commenting.

Hi Pamela,
So far, I've really loved all his books which I rarely say! I'm sure you'll enjoy The Seance and hopefully it won't scare you too much :) Thanks for commenting and stopping by.