Reviews for The London Sťance Society

by Sarah Penner

Library Journal
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Despite her skepticism and penchant for logic, Lenna Wickes travels to Paris to study under esteemed spiritualist Vaudeline D'Allaire after her sister is murdered in London. When the president of the renowned gentleman's club known as the London Sťance Society is also murdered, Vaudeline is called upon by society member Mr. Morley to conduct a sťance back in London. The women are swept up in a dangerous mystery full of supernatural intrigue, trickery, and illusion, where only the dead can provide the answers they seek. Narration performances are astounding and perfectly suited for the dual narrative of Lenna and Mr. Morley. Lenna and Vaudeline are played with delightfully distinct British and French accents by Lauren Irwin, while the stuffy British Mr. Morley is impeccably portrayed by Alex Wyndham. The narration brings to life the era-specific atmosphere and vocalizes the characters' varying emotions, ranging from extreme tension and anger to softer, more sensual moments. VERDICT Penner (The Lost Apothecary) proves herself again to be a writer to watch. Recommend to fans of historical fiction, especially Victorian-era stories, who enjoy elements of the supernatural. Irwin's and Wyndham's theatrical performances make this a must-listen.—Meghan Bouffard

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Penner (The Lost Apothecary, 2021) returns to a historical setting—this time 1873—to tell the story of a young woman seeking to solve her sister’s mysterious death by any means necessary. Lenna Wickes is a logical skeptic devastated by grief after her sister Evie’s death. She apprentices herself to famous Parisian medium Vaudeline D’Allaire, who contacts the spirits of recent murder victims to find their killers. Evie studied with the alluring Vaudeline before taking an independent interest in the doings of the London Sťance Society, where she discovered fraudulent practices. When Vaudeline is called to London to pursue contact with a recent murder victim on behalf of the society, Lenna travels with her hoping to find answers. The reader learns more problematic details about the society by alternating between Lenna and society member Mr. Morley’s points of view. Retracing her sister’s steps, Lenna discovers that the corruption goes much deeper than simply faking contact with the recently deceased, and it’s probable that Evie’s investigations led to her death—which also places Lenna and Vaudeline in peril. A great choice for fans of historical European settings, the power of women, and the fringes of the paranormal.

School Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

In 1873, 20-year-old Evie Wickes, a student of the medium Madame Vaudeline D'Allaire, who specializes in contacting those who are victims of murder to help families solve the mystery, is murdered on All Hallow's Eve. Her older sister, Lenna, who is 23, becomes an intern with Vaudeline in order to solve the mystery of her sister's murder. This Gothic Victorian tale begins by drawing the reader into an interrupted sťance, and then alternates perspectives between Lenna and Mr. Morley, vice president of the London Sťance Society's Department of Spiritualism. Initially the pacing of the story feels slow, but it eventually escalates to an anticipated and satisfying ending. Penner's eerie setting mixed with dark energy adds to the unfolding of the mystery in historic London. The budding romance between Lenna and Madame is behind closed doors, but demonstrates that same-sex relationships did exist during the time period, even though people showed a great deal of sexual restraint during the Victorian age. The novel is well-researched and readers will learn plenty about sťances and Victorian funeral traditions. The book takes place during a time when women were not viewed as intellectuals, but were often respected as mediums and experts of the supernatural. Characters reflect the time period and are reserved and cue as white. VERDICT Mature teens will enjoy the mystery and learn plenty about the occult and time period.—Karen Alexander

Publishers Weekly
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Penner (The Lost Apothecary) delivers another captivating feminist gothic tale. The story begins with a midnight sťance in 1873 Paris, hosted by Vaudeline D’Allaire, a celebrated medium known for getting murder victims to pinpoint their killers. Vaudeline has fled London under mysterious circumstances, in the company of skeptical Lenna Wickes, who’s convinced the other woman to let her be an apprentice. Lenna’s true motivation is to unravel the sudden death of her sister, Evie, a burgeoning medium and student of D’Allaire’s, which occurred on All Hallow’s Eve. In a parallel narrative, Mr. Morley, director of the London Sťance Society, is occupied with another puzzling death that also occurred on All Hallow’s Eve, that of society president Mr. Volckman. Under the pretense of hosting a sťance to ascertain the identity of Mr. Volckman’s killer, Mr. Morley offers Lenna and Vaudeline a chance to return to London, by inviting them into the Sťance Society’s all-male club. The two accept with the hopes of conjuring up details of Evie’s murder. As the well-paced adventure reaches an explosive climax, Lenna uncovers more about the London Sťance Society’s illusions and comes to terms with her sexuality. A late-breaking romance involving Lenna and Vaudeline feels underdeveloped, but otherwise Penner expertly fits the pieces together. Fans of the genre will eat this up. Agent: Stephanie Lieberman, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (Apr.)