by C. J. ArcherEmily is a medium working in London with her sister, where they contact the spirits of the dead to help them move on and give comfort to their relatives. But something is happening that is stopping the spirits from appearing to her. This threatens her job and income, and also her ability to understand a number of mysteries that are confounding her at the start of this novel, the third one in the Emily Chambers Spirit Medium series.
Not even the spirits seem to understand why they are having trouble appearing, and some of them seem to be disappearing altogether, threatening the whole of the afterlife. There is a mystery around who was behind the possessions in the previous novel, and who is behind this current curse. And then there's the question of Jacob, the handsome ghost who Emily has fallen in love with, who still doesn't know who his murderer was and where his body is.
Emily meets Cara, her young aunt, and plenty of family drama ensues. She also meets her grandfather, who appears to be insane. The situation gets more tense as Emily's real father comes back on the scene, and her sister Celia greets him with a great deal of frostiness, refusing to explain to Emily or the rest of the household exactly what her problem is with him.
There is more angst, as Emily's friend Adelaide approaches her coming-out ball. Adelaide is upper class, and her ball is going to be a big society event. Adelaide seems to have a sweet interest in George, Emily's bookish friend, but Adelaide's family is hyper-conscious that they want her to marry well, and they feel that George isn't quite enough of a catch for her.
Meanwhile, Theo is courting Emily, and as a gentleman of few means who is training to be a lawyer, he is considered a good match for her. However, it's a sad choice for Emily because her heart is really with Jacob, but for her own protection she would be better off forgetting Jacob and letting Theo in. He seems like an okay person, albeit not a flawless man.
Jacob's killer is still about, as is the person who cursed the ghosts, and there is a race against time to solve the mystery before the afterlife is destroyed. Mrs White, the woman who ran a training institution for servants and was instrumental in solving a demonic mystery in the first book, has disappeared. So there are plenty of puzzle pieces in play. This is an emotionally compelling story as well as a complex mystery. I wondered who the true villain was, and there are a few convincing red herrings as well as some twists before the end.
I was on tenterhooks as the characters raced to avert a disaster and save their respective loves, their lives, and their quaint Victorian ways of life. There is quite a strong message against the overly strict and class-bound society they lived in, and the way the older generation focused on marrying for money and status while many of the younger characters, particularly the main characters, were more intent on letting their hearts lead them. This story ties up the trilogy with a good, long denouement, and the epilogue ties up the various threads and side plots and connects all of the dots. It's satisfying, and pretty cute. If you like a tightly-woven mystery set against a detailed Victorian backdrop, mixing supernatural horror with strong emotions, this series is just the ticket.
13th August 2023
Review © Ros Jackson
Source: own copy