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The London Séance Society by Sarah Penner
Gothic fiction

The London Séance Society

Repeat author

Sarah Penner is back at Book of the Month – other BOTMs include The Lost Apothecary.

by Sarah Penner

Excellent choice

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Quick take

From the author of The Lost Apothecary, a gothic fable teeming with mystery & occult forces, where none can be trusted.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_LGBTQ

    LGBTQ+ themes

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_International

    International

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Whodunit

    Whodunit

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Glamorous

    Glamorous

Synopsis

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. But as the women 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 . . .

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Content warning

This book contains mentions of sexual assault.

Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of The London Séance Society.
The London Séance Society

1

LENNA

Paris, Thursday, 13 February 1873

At an abandoned château on the wooded outskirts of Paris, a dark séance was about to take place.

The clock read thirty-two minutes after midnight. Lenna Wickes, spiritualist understudy, sat at an oval table draped in black linen. A gentleman and his wife, the other séance participants, sat at the table with her. Their faces were somber and their breathing uneasy. They were in what was once the parlor of the dilapidated château, which had not been inhabited for a hundred years. Behind Lenna, blood-colored paper peeled from the walls, clusters of mildew hiding underneath.

If all went well tonight, the ghost they sought—that of a young woman, murdered here in this very place—would soon appear.

Above them, something skittered. Mice, surely. Lenna had seen the droppings when they walked in, the tiny black kernels scattered about the baseboards. But then the skitter turned to a scratching noise and—was that a thud she’d just heard? She fought off a chill, thinking that if ghosts did indeed exist, this derelict château would be the place to find them.

She glanced quickly out the window into the darkness. Fat, wet snowflakes, rare for Paris, drifted down around the château. They’d set a few lanterns outside, and Lenna’s eyes fell on the metal gate at the front of the estate, wrapped in dead ivy vines and quivering in its brace. Beyond it stood dark, thick forest, the needly evergreens dusted with white.

The séance participants, called sitters, had gathered at midnight. The parents of the victim—whom Lenna had met several days prior to this event—arrived first. They were followed soon after by Lenna and her teacher, the renowned medium who would lead tonight’s affair: Vaudeline D’Allaire.

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Why I love it

Some books conjure a world so rich and mesmerizing that while in their company they seem to cast new light on your own reality. Suddenly, you are reading into every shadow in your room. Was that noise you just heard an unknown presence hiding just from view? The London Séance Society is just such a book; it will have you questioning everything you think you know about life’s everyday mysteries. Prepare to be looking over your shoulder for awhile.

When her sister dies unexpectedly, Lenna Wickes seeks out a renowned spiritualist on the outskirts of Paris who quickly conscripts her to be an understudy. Lenna is skeptical of the occult arts but agrees so that she can continue unraveling the mystery of her sister’s death. The duo are soon called to London to support an investigation of the London Séance Society, a renowned men-only group of spiritualists. It quickly becomes clear that not all is as it seems and they may already be embroiled in a mystery, not simply trying to solve one.

In her sophomore follow-up to The Lost Apothecary, Sarah Penner has fashioned an irresistible and truly immersive Victorian gothic tale. This is a book shrouded in creepy atmosphere and chock full of fascinating characters and incidents. The London Séance Society is already one of my biggest literary highlights of 2023! And I bet it will beguile you too.

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Member ratings (18,031)

  • Chandler R.

    Greenwood, SC

    What a page turner! The twists and turns the story took had me second guessing every character’s intentions and integrity. AND THE ENDING, WOW! A complete surprise and wrapped up perfectly. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Caro C.

    Durham, NC

    A delightful Victorian Era murder-mystery with enough twists and turns to make you think you’ve figured it out six times before the end! A FIVE ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ star read for sure. Love the recipes, too!

  • Taylor M.

    Tampa, FL

    Having previously read “The Lost Apothecary” by Penner I had high hopes for this book, and I’m happy to report she did not disappoint! I could not put this book down! I was surprised with every page.

  • Francesca A.

    Davy, WV

    Obviously I have not had time to read through the entire book but what I have read is so vaguely familiar, accurate, and exciting! Cannot wait to finish it. Highly recommended⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Kathryn B.

    Shelby, MI

    Think “gothic fiction slow burn”. The plot builds and builds as you get to know Lenna, her late sister Evie, and medium Vaudeline. The London Seance Society will never be the same if it’s up to them!

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