Monday, May 10, 2021

Review: The Woman Who Spoke to Spirits by Alys Clare

by Alys Clare
Release Date: April 1st 2019
2019 Severn House Publishers
Kindle Edition; 234 Pages
ISBN: 978-0727888686
Genre: Fiction / Historical / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

London, 1880 When accounts clerk Ernest Stibbins approaches the World's End Investigation Bureau with wild claims that his wife Albertina has been warned by her spirit guides that someone is out to harm her, the bureau's owner Lily Raynor and her new employee Felix Wilbraham are initially sceptical. How are the two private enquiry agents supposed to investigate threats from beyond the grave?

But after she attends a seance at the Stibbins family home, Lily comes to realize that Albertina is in terrible danger. And very soon so too is Lily herself...
My Thoughts
The Woman Who Spoke to Spirits was a fun, quick read that was very different from the historical mystery novels that I have read from this author.  A huge fan of her Hawkenlye mystery series, I was curious to see what she would do with a series set in the 19th century as opposed to the 12th century. I do think the tone was somewhat more humorous and while I was not opposed to this, one of the things I loved about her medieval mysteries was not just her ability to describe the time periods so well, but also her ability to highlight the injustices and plights of those who were downtrodden and abused.  And this definitely was highlighted here too, just not in the same way.

Lily and Felix were the main characters of this new series, and I grew to like them both for very different reasons.  Felix is a charmer, the one who brings humour to the series, both through his actions and through his witticism.  But deep down, there is also a champion for justice who is just waiting to escape, and we see that through a secondary story line that occurs in this book.  Lily is far more serious, and she is hiding a big secret, one that we don't actually learn in this book.  Her seriousness matches Felix' impulsiveness rather nicely and the two work well together.  I know that Lily does not represent the typical Victorian woman of the time period, but truly, I am getting a bit tired of the 'I've got a big secret' trope, and that is why I am doing what I am doing instead of what I love.  It's getting a bit old. Thank goodness Lily and Felix handle any disagreements with maturity rather than the angst you see in other books, and they interact with each other quite naturally, helping and supporting each other when needed, understanding they need each other to survive as well as to grow the business.  

The main mystery was actually quite interesting and I have to admit I didn't suspect who it was until later on in the book, and when I did finally suspect who it was, I couldn't for the life of me come up with a motive.  The secondary story line, also a mystery to some extent, was also fascinating, but for far different reasons.  There did tend to be some 'lecturing' in this book with regards to the conditions of the slums and how the wealthy didn't do anything to help, but it wasn't too overly blatant.  The investigation itself was a nice balance of actual investigative work and relationship development.  

The Woman Who Spoke to Spirits was an enjoyable start to a new series for this author.  I enjoyed the two main characters quite a bit although I did feel like they were modern characters who time-travelled to the 19th century, at times, rather than ones who actually grew up in Victorian England. I really enjoyed the journalist and the actress and hope they become series regulars, although I will say that if the sailor thing becomes a love triangle, I think that may be a big negative for me.  I thought the investigation was interesting, and the ending did catch me by surprise although I should be used to this author's twists and turns by now.  A good start to a new series.