Feminist gothic fiction set between the late 19th century and the early 20th century – an era of burgeoning spiritualism and the suffragette movement – that couldn’t be more relevant today.
England, 1925. Louisa Drew lost her husband in the First World War and her six-year-old twin sons in the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918. Newly re-married to a war-traumatised husband and seven months pregnant, Louisa is asked by her employer to travel to Clewer Hall in Sussex where she is to photograph the contents of the house for auction.
She learns Clewer Hall was host to an infamous séance in 1896, and that the lady of the house has asked those who gathered back then to come together once more to recreate the evening. When a mysterious child appears on the grounds, Louisa finds herself compelled to investigate and becomes embroiled in the strange happenings of the house. Gradually, she unravels the long-held secrets of the inhabitants and what really happened thirty years before… and discovers her own fate is entwined with that of Clewer Hall’s.
England 1917, and VAD nurse, Stella Marcham is home from the front after the death of her fiancé, Gerald Fitzwilliam. Broken by grief, and feeling trapped at home, she needs a change of scene. As it happens, her sister Madeleine is pregnant and feeling anxious at Greyswick, her husband’s family home, and when Hector, her brother-in-law, asks Stella to visit, she readily accepts.
Stella finds Greyswick to be the gauche house of a nouveau riche family. Dark, over-decorated, staffed only by Cook, Maisie the maid and the glowering Mrs Henge, it is not a happy place. Madeleine is anxious but she won’t say why. Slowly things start to fall into place and Stella starts to experience things she can’t explain.
Unfortunately, the lady of the house refuses to believe them. Hector arrives with an amateur supernatural investigator, Tristan Sheer, to convince the sisters that they’re being hysterical.
With Stella is Annie Burrows, maid and daughter of the man who died trying to rescue the youngest Marcham sister from a fire. Annie is unusual. She can see ghosts. And she knows who is haunting Madeleine and why. A decades old murder is at the root of their problems. So, in parallel with Sheen’s investigation, the women set about solving the murder to end the haunting.
Winter 1917. As the First World War enters its most brutal phase, back home in England, everyone is seeking answers to the darkness that has seeped into their lives.
At Blackwater Abbey, on an island off the Devon coast, Lord Highmount has arranged a spiritualist gathering to contact his two sons who were lost in the conflict. But as his guests begin to arrive, it gradually becomes clear that each has something they would rather keep hidden. Then, when a storm descends on the island, the guests will find themselves trapped. Soon one of their number will die.
For Blackwater Abbey is haunted in more ways than one . . .