Title: Séance on a Summer’s Night
Author: Josh Lanyon
Publisher: JustJoshin Publishing, Inc.
Release Date: January 31, 2019
Genre(s): Murder Mystery
Page Count: 318
Reviewed by: ParisDude
Heat Level: 3 flames out of 5
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Theater critic Artemus Bancroft isn’t sure what to expect when his aunt summons him home to California with vague but urgent pleas about being unable to cope with “the situation.”
The situation turns out to be the apparent haunting of Green Lanterns Inn—along with alarming rumors that long-suffering Auntie Halcyone may have murdered her philandering husband.
In fact, the rumors seem to have been started by the late Mr. Hyde himself—from beyond the grave.
If I were asked to capture my reading experience of “Séance on a Summer’s Night” in one word, I’d be forced to use a phrase that seems to be annoyingly trendy on social media these days but that would summarize it to perfection: “This!”
Take a closed setting—the whole story takes place in a family mansion near the Californian coast north of San Francisco. Throw in a bunch of eccentric characters: first-person-narrator Artemus Bancroft, a gay theatre critic currently of New York; his recently widowed aunt Halcyon; the stiff butler Tarrant, who’s apparently developing a certain Bolshevik penchant late in the day; his ectoplasmic daughter Ulyanna; aunt Halcyon’s sister-in-law Liana, former socialite now devoted to spiritism; the hunky gardener Seamus Cassidy; Roma Loveridge, a medium; and last but not least… aunt Halcyon’s late husband, who has died in a car accident and has come back in ghost-form to haunt the premises.
At the beginning, we understand auntie H. has asked her nephew to come home and deal with the ghost-situation. Problem is, Artemus (“Artie”) doesn’t believe in ghosts. That’s why he sets out to get to the bottom of things while the rest of the crew seems oddly happy to believe in the supernatural, some even basking in the fear and hope it inspires. Only the handsome but suspiciously un-gardenerish gardener Seamus, who makes Artie’s heart beat faster (V-shaped guy, hairy torso!), seems to be as doubtful as he. Yet how can Artie trust someone showing such a peculiar behaviour he makes himself look doubtful?
That’s the starting point. What you have to do now is stir all these ingredients, or preferably let a good writer do it. Josh Lanyon, for instance. And you get an un-put-downable murder mystery cum gay romance novel. The plot unravels at a steady pace, with not a word too much, not a sentence too long, not a paragraph missing. The characters, whilst all being larger than life, have the right amount of real-life look-and-feel to make them authentic. The dialogues are witty, sometimes outright funny—just what you’d expect of a bitchy, gay NY theatre critic, a staunch older auntie, a wry hunk of a gardener, and a bereaved sister gone borderline bonkers. You get steamy scenes (vanilla only, but hmm! Seamus Cassidy! I’d do him, alright—with apologies to my boyfriend); you get spooky scenes; you get suspense; you get an ending you could suspect somewhere during the read without exactly knowing how (and if) Josh Lanyon will pull it off.
Well, she does pull it off. Convincingly, professionally, in prose I’d almost call British in the best sense of the term. At the risk of sounding like a gushing fan, I expected an enjoyable read, and Josh Lanyon didn’t disappoint me. Here is one helluva gifted writer who knows how to give her readers yet another literary treat. Trust me, and now go grab a copy.