by C. J. ArcherIn the second part of the Emily Chambers Spirit Medium Trilogy, Emily is still trying to piece together the death of the ghost she has fallen in love with, Jacob. This time, she has the help of Jacob's initially sceptical mother, and his sister Adelaide.
Things become much more complicated when a malevolent spirit appears and starts possessing people. The spirit is able to cross from one person to another, taking over the victim's will and making them behave like the rough, rude criminal he was in life. Emily turns to George Culvert, a bookish friend with an extensive library about the paranormal, to find out more. This prompts Jacob's ghost to act strangely, as though he is jealous. So there's a touch of sweetness from the start of this book.
To complicate matters further, a mysterious man, and a young girl who looks a bit like Emily herself, could be involved in the summoning. They're really making life hard for the victims and their families, which include the well-connected Wallace Arbuthnot. The fine distinctions of class are at the surface, as people try to matchmake. Emily knows she isn't on George or Jacob's families' social level, because with her lack of parents, her dusky skin and her need to work for a living she is definitely not a lady. She has to endure a lot of sneering prejudice, as well as the suspicion that she's a fraud. London in 1880 abounds with snobbery, and the upper classes especially are obsessed with marrying for wealth and title rather than for love.
Another victim of the class system is Theo, an attractive but poor cousin of Wallace Arbuthnot's, who has come from the country in order to study law. Theo takes an interest in Emily, who still only has eyes for Jacob even though he's a ghost. This extra suitor leaves the tragic, doomed pair in turmoil as Jacob pretends to have lost his affection for Emily, and the pair of them agonise over whether Emily should settle for Theo, who seems like a good enough man even though he isn't the love of her life. What would make her the most happy?
This romantic story is gripping, with a range of rounded characters who seem to have a lot going on, many of whom could be the cause of the trouble. It made me wonder what these people had done to attract such a concerted campaign of trouble, and it was fun to try to fit the pieces together and try to figure out the main suspects. Beyond the mystery of who was behind the possession, there are several sub-plots around the motivations and secrets of some of the minor characters, including Emily's family origins, and the motivations, wholesome or otherwise, of a number of characters.
Possession seems too short, mainly because it's the middle book in the trilogy and it's in the thick of the action and intrigue, so its pace is pretty snappy. The tension builds nicely, whilst the characters are deep enough to be both interesting and likeable; Emily does sometimes come across as too measured for her supposed 17 years, but she's by no means perfect and often has to resort to lies to achieve her aims. Overall this is a satisfying middle book in the trilogy, which left me keen to finish the rest of the story.
7th August 2023
Review © Ros Jackson
Source: own copy