Sunday, September 18, 2011

Séance in Sepia-Michelle Black

Séance in Sepia

Michelle Black

Five Star, Oct 21 2011, $25.95

ISBN 9781432825485

Flynn Kiernan and her teenage son Brody go “dumpster diving” every Thursday as they search for books to buy for her father Daniel’s Weston Books from estate sales. On sabbatical leave from her college teaching position, she is currently looking at what the late Mrs. Pilcher left behind for her landlady to sell to cover back rent. Inside a pre WWI Webster dictionary which is in fine shape she finds a portrait photo that she assumes is from the nineteenth century though there are some anomalies like the unorthodox hairstyle of the twenty-something woman surrounded by two men of the same age

Flynn visits antiques storeowner Mr. Heilbocker who says the picture is pre 1880 cabinet card albumen print that looks like a Spirit photo. She finds nothing on the net about Medora Lamb, the name on the back. Flynn puts it on EBay where she receives bids surpassing $2000. Matt Holtser emails asking if he can see it as he is researching a late relative involved in the Free Love Murders AKA The Prairie Avenue Massacre

In 1875 Chicago, Medora Langley was married to Alec Ingersoll. They and family friend Cameron Langley shared a house together. That ended with Medora and Cam dead with Alec on trial for their murders. Sweating he was innocent, he hires spiritualist Victoria Woodhull to conduct a séance to learn from his wife and best friend who killed them.

This is a superb thriller that compares contemporary and Reconstruction Eras investigative techniques, women and relationships from both periods. The story line is fast-paced even with the deft rotation between past and present as women have come a long way baby since 1875.

Harriet Klausner

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