The Spiritualist
Megan Chance

Three Rivers Press
Trade Paperback/342 pages
ISBN: 978-0307406118
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". . . takes the genre of the romance/mystery into entirely new planes . . ."

Evelyn Atherton has everything a young woman in 1850s New York City could want—she is married to a handsome and affluent attorney; she is beautiful and intelligent; she is in demand at society’s best balls and dinners. However, Evelyn’s life changes abruptly when her husband Peter is found murdered, and she is the charged with the crime.

When her husband’s family and all of her society friends turn against her, Evelyn has no choice but to turn to the only people who champion her: the members of the occult séance group that her husband religiously attended. Evelyn has no great faith in the occult, particularly not in the supposed medium Michel Jourdain, the center of the group. However, with the help of her only other ally, her husband’s friend and former business partner Benjamin Rampling, she believes that she can prove her innocence and simultaneously find the true murderer if she can only unravel her husband’s obsession with the séance group and Jourdain.

As Evelyn becomes closer to Jourdain and the world of the occult, she begins to realize she may have overestimated her ability to resist their seductive power. The séances, Jourdain’s hypnotic charisma and Evelyn’s own unexpected receptivity to the occult begin to confuse her. Is Jourdain her enemy, the murderer of her husband or her soulmate? Are her occult experiences real or imagined? And will she be able to resist the pull of both long enough to prove her innocence and escape death?

The Spiritualist is a well-written dark twist on the good old-fashioned whodunnit. Megan Chance skillfully combines illuminating touches of mid-19th century detail with the dark, seedy side of life hidden from well-heeled society, yet flourishing all the same. She does a particularly good job at portraying the suffocating restrictions and treacherous alliances of upper class life in the 1800s. Because Evelyn was born a working-class man’s daughter, nothing, not even marriage to one of society’s golden boys, can take the taint of her low birth status away. Chance gets this concept across to the reader forcefully without beating the issue into the ground.

In addition to being a surprising and thoughtful mystery, this novel is unexpectedly romantic, even erotic. Despite it’s classic language and historical setting, don’t expect anything formulaic from The Spiritualist. It raises the genre of the romance-mystery to entirely new plains.

Reviewer: Michelle Kerns