Saturday, August 30, 2008

Guest Review: The Spiritualist

I'd like to welcome back my friend Melissa. From time to time, she helps me catch up with my huge TBR pile. Her latest review is THE SPIRITUALIST by Megan Chance.

Summary: Sometimes truth is the greatest illusion of all.

In a cold January morning in 1856, Evelyn Atherton’s husband is found murdered after attending an exclusive séance. Having “married up” into New York society, Evie herself is the immediate suspect. Ostracized and vulnerable, she knows that to clear her name she must retrace her husband’s last steps. And so, joining forces with her husband’s best friend–and the only Manhattan lawyer who will accept her case–Evie dives into the mysterious underworld of the occult.

Before long, the trail brings them to a charismatic medium, Michel Jourdain. Evie’s instincts tell her the smooth-talking Jourdain is a charlatan–and her only hope for exoneration. But getting close to Jourdain means embracing a seductive and hypnotic world where clues to murder come through the voices of the dead.

Caught in a perilous game in which she is equal player and pawn, predator and victim, Evie finds there is no one to trust, perhaps not even herself. As her powerful in-laws build a case against her, and with time running out, Evie must face the real ghosts of her past if she is to have any hope of avoiding the hangman. -- Three Rivers Press

When handsome attorney Peter Atherton proposes to her, Evie believes she is living every middle-class girl’s dream by marrying into the “upper ten,” New York City’s most elite and wealthy families. Unfortunately, as she comes to finds out, the stuff of fairy tales rarely mimics real life. So when Peter asks her to attend a spirit circle in the hopes of summoning his dead mother, Evie concedes in the hopes of bridging the distance that seems to be growing between them.

As a disbeliever, Evie doesn’t know quite what to think of the magnetic and handsome medium, Michael Jourdain. But her skepticism turns to alarm when a mysterious gun “misfires” during the circle and nearly hits Peter. After escorting her home, Peter informs Evie that he is going back out to investigate his suspicion that the shot was meant for Jourdain. This is the last time she sees her husband alive.

Two days later, Evie is devastated to learn that Peter has been murdered. Her grief is exacerbated when her late husband’s influential family closes rank and pulls political strings to have Evie accused of the murder. Evie soon finds that even those she considered to be her true friends among the upper echelon have deserted her.

Alone in the world with no one to turn to, help and refuge comes from an unexpected source -- Dorothy Bennett, the reclusive New York Society matron who hosted the spirit circle Evie attended with her husband. Not knowing who she can trust, Evie must navigate the realm of spiritualism to prove her innocence and uncover the truth about the medium Michael Jourdain. Is he a genuine spirit guide, clever charlatan or murderer?

I really enjoyed this book. It was a great suspenseful story with enough plot twists to keep me guessing. Michael Jourdain is one of those memorable characters who you’re not quite sure whether you love or hate. I was really drawn into the antagonistic relationship between Evie and Jourdain and I loved seeing it develop into something less defined and even more volatile.

Megan Chance does a great job of portraying the ambiance of New York City in the late 19th century. Evie’s desperation as she tries to straddle the chasm separating the working class and upper society during that time feels real. The biased behavior of the police force, which I suppose is a relatively true reflection of the era, is infuriating

I’m not sure where I stand on the whole issue of spiritualism, but I was able to relate to Evie’s skepticism in the matter. As a mother, I was also affected by Dorothy Bennett’s desperation to communicate with her dead son. Regardless of whether or not you’re a believer in the spirit world, if you like a good suspense novel, I would highly recommend THE SPIRITUALIST.

I am extremely grateful to Melissa for once again providing a terrific book review. I can't wait to read more of her reviews in the near future!


Anonymous said...

I worry that some police officers STILL might be biased based on a person's "class." This sounds like a book that just happens to be set in the past, but could be written with a modern-time setting.

kristen at

S. Krishna said...

This one sounds great! Thanks for a wonderful review!

Michele said...

Ooo...another good one. Melissa's read some good books lately! Woohoo for us!