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Publisher's Summary

A haunting tale of apparitions, a cursed manor house, and two generations of women determined to discover the truth, by the author of The Ghost Writer.

Sell the Hall unseen; burn it to the ground and plow the earth with salt, if you will; but never live there…

Constance Langton grows up in a household marked by death, her father distant, her mother in perpetual mourning for Constance's sister, the child she lost. Desperate to coax her mother back to health, Constance takes her to a séance; perhaps she will find comfort from beyond the grave. But the meeting has tragic consequences. Constance is left alone, her only legacy a mysterious bequest that will blight her life.

So begins this brilliant and gripping novel, a dark mystery set in late-Victorian England. It is a world of apparitions, of disappearances and unnatural phenomena, of betrayal and blackmail and black-hearted villains - and of murder. Constance's bequest comes in two parts: a house and a mystery. Years before, a family disappeared at Wraxford Hall, a decaying mansion in the English countryside with a sinister reputation. Now the Hall belongs to Constance, and she must descend into the darkness at the heart of the Wraxford mystery to find the truth - even at the cost of her life.

©2009 John Harwood (P)2013 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Great Victorian Period Read

What made the experience of listening to The Séance the most enjoyable?

I think that the multiple narration, broken into sections worked well and added to the books overall appeal.

What other book might you compare The Séance to and why?

None that I can think of.

Which character – as performed by the narrators – was your favorite?

I really liked the narration of the male characters, but felt the author has a wonderful grasp of the female characters.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

It did keep me wanting to listen to more once the story got going. It was a little slow to build, but got better as it went on.

Any additional comments?

For a girl, growing up in the Victorian era has its own difficulties, but for Constance Langton things are far more ghastly than properly worn bustles and guarded reputations. Her mother is in an everlasting state of mourning over the loss of her youngest daughter Alma and her father is as detached, cold and indifferent as a wet fish. Forlorn, Constance makes a desperate attempt to bring her mother peace by arranging a séance’ which leads to Constance finding herself all alone in the world.


An unexpected inheritance befalls her in the form of an old, dilapidated and crumbling mansion with an ominous history. Constance becomes obsessed with disentangling the web of peculiar and eerie happenings the mansion has held for several generations and in doing so, finds her mind on the precipice of insanity and her life in mortal peril.
The author, John Harwood, does an excellent job of portraying the female character in this Victorian setting, which makes it easy to identify with the characters and follow the storyline with eager interest. The twists and turns of the mysteries surrounding the mansion and Constance’s life bind into a clever, believable conclusion.

I listened to the audio version of the book and I felt the narration was good although it did take me a bit to warm up to one of the narrators. There is one scene in particular where I felt the narration was too loud (even though shouting was taking place), but overall the multiple narrators introduced in separate parts worked quite well.

The story does take its time to build, but is worth the wait. I would recommend this book for its grasp of the era, the intricate story that beseeches being pieced together along with it skillful narration.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Karen
  • United States
  • 03-09-14

Great narration lifts up an average story

What made the experience of listening to The Séance the most enjoyable?

All three narrators were very good. They easily moved between characters and had excellent pacing.

Would you be willing to try another book from John Harwood? Why or why not?

I'm not sure. The plot was complicated, but not difficult to predict.

What about the narrators’s performance did you like?

All three are consummate professionals.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

No.

Any additional comments?

Very predictable gothic romance.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

The Seance

I started the first couple chapters of the book reading the hardback and downloaded the audio because I could not stop reading. The barley was captivating. I could see the imagery while listening. So good.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Wait, what?

Where does The Séance rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This book is ranks right in the middle of the audiobooks I've listened to so far.

How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

I'm not sure what would have made it better. The double story lines were OK, but some of the characters were just plain annoying.

What does the narrators bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

I really liked the narration of this book. Her voices really brought the story more depth.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Not really.

Any additional comments?

It's a good "read" but a little disappointing in the character development.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

it's terrific when you discover a new "favorite."

I'm a big fan of Gothic mysteries, but I'm very very picky. Think: Daphne du Maurier. The stories have to have historical accuracy, an interesting plot, characters with depth, good dialogue, and an interesting villain doesn't hurt.
This is my second book by John Harwood, and I'm so tempted to run right through the list, but I know better and I'll pace myself.
The three accomplished narrators were excellent selection. Actually, each is a favorite of mine.
Even on a beautiful spring afternoon, The Seance raised goosebumps a time or two. This is one to savor.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

EXCELLENT story, goofy narration

This story is great! Love the three different perspectives. I guessed a few plot points relatively early on, but I was still kept in suspense the entire time. Very evocative, entertaining, and spooky, with female heroines constrained by a succession of mansplainers, ranging from the annoying to the murderous. My only complaint with this audio version is with the primary narrator. Her interpretation is...melodramatic, at times shouty, and...very hard to take seriously. I might suggest reading this the old fashioned way.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • D.
  • 09-20-16

Totally disagree w the harsh narrator reviews

There are several narrators and they are all really good. The initial narrator does project and perform her character, but she does so in a way that makes you lose yourself into the story. If you listen to the sample it does seem a bit much, but you quickly become accustomed to the style. It is easy to become absorbed in this story. I love books like The Woman in White, Lady Audley's Secret, Rebecca, My Cousin Rachel, etc. I would put this in a similar category. However, compared to those novels it is a bit simpler and not nearly as deep. It is nonetheless an enjoyable book. Entertaining for sure!

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • KG
  • 05-18-16

Great Gothic

I love gothic novels, but sometimes find them frustrating due to the overworked language. As an example, I will point out "the turn of the screw, where the author takes about 4 pages to simply say " she saw a ghost". though I understand that the idea is to build up suspense, it ends up having the opposite effect on me, and at some point I'm just furiously screaming at the book "I get it! there is a scary ghost! now move on with the story!"

The seance manages to capture the best of gothic without the excessive writing of the genre. Though I would classify it as a gothic novel, I must mention that when you get past the "paranormal" elements, what you actually have here is a good old-fashioned murder-mystery. The narrators all did a wonderful job, I enjoyed all of the interpretations thoroughly.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Not what I expected...

Any additional comments?

I wanted to like this story.

Though the title, cover, and book's blurb are all accurate, the road the author takes the reader along is cumbrous and filled with long, unnecessary idles.

The story eventually comes to a rather "neat" conclusion, though there were several earlier points at which a more satisfying ending could have been reached. When listening to the final section it sounded as though someone was standing over the author's shoulder saying, "I don't like that. Write a few more paragraphs. Ah...no. That's not it either. Just a couple more paragraphs and then you'll have it. Oh, and if you could tack on a romance at the last second, please do."

While two of the three voice performers did quite well with the material, the actress who performed the final section of the story was overwrought, shouting rather than emoting. Unfortunately, this only served to further highlight the cobbled together feel of the entire section.

Three out of five.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Narrator Yells

Would you try another book from John Harwood and/or the narrators?

Yes - per the author John Hardwood. Maybe - per the narrator, pending they don't yell.

What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

Ok. Not predictable. But the narrator was a bit annoying.

Would you be willing to try another one of the narrators’s performances?

Maybe - pending they don't yell.

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

Maybe

Any additional comments?

The story is promising. However, the primary narrator(s) yells. She seems to be approaching the narration as if she were performing from a stage, and overprojects her voice. In short, a bit overacted with loud outburst of yelling.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful