Seance and secrets set the scene for this storySpooky happenings, seance and eerie atmosphere - it was enough to get me excited about this gothic novel. But my curiosity also stemmed from the fact that this was Derbyshire crime novelist Sarah Ward's debut in the gothic novel genre.
Set in the 1920s, pregnant photographer Louisa has been commissioned to take pictures of the contents of Clewer Hall before they are auctioned. Louisa needs the money and agrees to stay at the Hall to complete the assignment. Upon arrival, she learns about a seance that is being recreated to replicate the one held there years ago. Louisa finds herself tangled in it and soon finds that this job is much more than she bargained for .
What I liked:
"January mornings are worst times to greet the living when you'd rather be amongst the departed."
- I loved the angle of the story, how it introduces the main character and then zooms in on the setting. The atmospheric feel of Clewer Hall a country house shutting down for good ends up taking sinister hues by the end of the chapter. It really set the tone for what was to come ahead
- Louisa the protagnist is a strong character and her backstory justifies her actions. It was interesting to watch her connect with the members of Clewer Hall. The class divide is portrayed well in their interactions.
- Despite a small drag in the middle, once the seance scene is unravelled, the repercussions sweep the reader in a roller coaster ride till the end.
- Particularly enjoyed reading about the photography in the 1920s. Sarah uses her research well to explain the elaborate process using glass plates and chemicals which seems quite alien when compared to a snappy "click" on our phones today!
- The use of historical elements lend authenticity to the narrative and meeting Arthur Conan Doyle as a character. It syncs with his real life reputation which for me was a nice touch.
Loved this period story which had a contemporary echo. It is well structured and flows well. I found myself racing to the killer end, caught up with story and intrigued to know Louisa's fate.
From crime thrillers to gothic novels, Sarah Ward's writing keeps me enthralled. Recommended read.