Seance on a Summer's Night
A belated Happy New Year to all reading this review. Winter is a bad time for me health-wise, and in England believe me when I say we all need winter pick- me-ups. Thus, for my first review of 2019, I went for a favourite American, romance author, Josh Lanyon and a hot sounding title, Seance on a Summer’s Night.
Artemus Bancroft is a theatre critic who lives in New York. When he is contacted by the woman who more or less raised him in California, Aunt Halycone Bancroft-Hyde, begging him to visit, Artemus returns to his childhood home, which is now run as an inn – Green Lanterns.
Things are obviously wrong, but the dark, rain-drenched house does nothing to reveal the problem when he arrives. Tarrant, the old, surly butler, who opens the door wearing his dressing gown, seems less than pleased by Artie’s arrival, and inside, the grand house is showing signs of wear and tear and a lackadaisical attitude to cleaning. Artie discovers the staff have all stopped working there, except for Tarrant and his daughter Betty because of the supposed haunting of the house by Aunt Halycone’s recently deceased husband, Ogden.
Also resident is an hysterical, grief stricken woman, Ogden’s sister, Liana. This woman is wearing everyone’s nerves to shreds and keeps to her room reading tarot cards and consulting a medium, Roma, hoping to hear from her brother from beyond the grave. To add insult to injury, it seems the deceased Ogden is blaming Aunt Halycone for his death, putting her under suspicion that she murdered him, rather than it being due to a car accident caused by a known reckless driver.
There is a bright note in Artie’s return in the form of the the new, very handsome but terrible gardener, Seamus Cassidy.
Nearly all the action takes place within the house and grounds of Green Lanterns, which supplies the atmosphere and surroundings one would expect for a story of hauntings, conspiracies, murders, and hysteria. It’s very Agatha Christie in structure, but sadly lacks the uniqueness or nuance of that author. The characters names are wonderful and slightly tongue in cheek I think. I believe Ms. Lanyon used the names of some of her Patreon subscribers, whom she mentions at the end of the book.
The creepiness, characters’ reactions and feelings are laid on a bit thick for my liking, and the frequent recaps seem to imply that the reader will not be able to keep up with the plot. I have found this occurs in quite a few mysteries these days, as if authors doubt our concentration spans.
The plot is interesting, but is just not up to the wonders of the Adrien English Mysteries or the All’s Fair trilogy. A little more romance and sexy scenes between Seamus and Artie would have been nice, as they worked well as a couple, but I suppose that’s difficult to fit in with so much else going on – and I guessed Seamus Cassidy’s secret very quickly.
Séance on a Summer’s Night isn’t my favourite Josh Lanyon book, and nor did it deliver the hot weather and relationship I had hoped for. But still, it’s a good mystery if you can put up with Artemus calling his Aunt me old darling every few pages!
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