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Monday, 25 July 2011

‘Séance in Sepia’ by Michelle Black

Published by Five Star Publishing, October 2011.
ISBN: 978-1-4328-2548-5

Flynn Keirnan has taken time off from her teaching job to help her father get his second-hand bookshop off the ground.  Sorting through a dusty collection of books belonging to a deceased lady, now being sold off by the landlady to cover unpaid rent, Flynn finds tucked in one of the books what is clearly a Victorian photograph.  Although the photograph is that of dark haired young women, the transparent faces of two men float above on either side of her. Flynn is fascinated by the photograph which on investigation she discovers to be a ‘spirit’ photograph, which was a claim made by some Victorian spiritualists that they could photograph the dead during a séance.  Flynn becomes even more fascinated when she puts it up on the auction house EBay and the bidding rises to $2000.

Intrigued by the photograph Flynn conducts some further investigation and discovers that the people in the photograph were the subjects in a murder trial in Chicago in 1875, when an architect was accused of killing his wife and his best friend - the murder case being dubbed ‘The Free Love Murders.

The story of the 1875 trial is unfolded from trial transcripts and a journal, interspersed with Flynn’s current day investigation of the story behind the photograph, which brings her into contact with several people who have a connection to this piece of  history, and also people researching the life of Victoria Woodhull, an American suffragist who was a campaigner for women’s rights in the 19th century.

This is a many faceted work, weaving a real-life character and her beliefs into a credible story of murder, which also has its’ own message for the inhabitants of both centuries.  I was captivated by the story, the well-drawn characters, and the insight into The Oneida Community, which was an education in itself. This book is highly recommended.
Lizzie Hayes

Michelle Black was born in Kansas and studied anthropology in college, then went on to law school where she graduated with honors. In 1993, she moved to Colorado and began to focus on her fiction writing. For three years, she owned a bookstore in Frisco, Colorado, a small town nestled high in the Colorado Rockies. Michelle has written six books, they are describes as books of an electrifying mix of history, mystery and adventure. The titles are:  The Second Glass of Absinthe, Solomon Spring, The Book of Light, An Uncommon Enemy, Lightening in a Drought Year and coming this Autumn, Séance in Sepia which features real-life feminist firebrand, Victoria Woodhull as its protagonist.

Michelle loves hearing from readers and hopes they will not be shy about contacting her at

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