BookHound
Reviews and Recommendations by Mel Odom, Professional Writer

THE SEANCE SOCIETY by Michael Nethercott

Michael Nethercott The Seance Society

Michael Nethercott is a new mystery writer to me. I got my hands on an ARC (advanced reviewer’s copy) of The Séance Society and was intrigued by the 1950s background, the séance component of the plot, and the description of the two main characters – which are definitely in Holmes and Watson territory. In fact, one of the O’Nelligan and Plunkett short stories won an Orchid award which is given by fans of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin stories, of which I am also a huge fan.

I have to admit that the first half of the novel bogged a bit. I didn’t get to know the characters too well, though they were interesting enough to keep reading about. The mystery is solidly constructed and there are a number of interesting suspects as well as red herrings. Nethercott definitely knows the genre.

I would ask that readers indulge Nethercott the first half of the book because they’ll be well rewarded by the time the second half kicks in. This is the point where O’Nelligan’s and Plunkett’s investigation turns more personal and we get to see more of their depth of character. And they’re wonderful characters.

On the surface, O’Nelligan is something of a modest Sherlock Holmes or a thin Nero Wolfe, if you will, and claims to be the junior partner of Plunkett and Son Investigations. He in his sixties and has had a large life. Not only that, he’s very Irish and quotes poetry at the drop of a hat. One of the best set pieces in the story is O’Nelligan’s verbal sparring with Trowbridge, the very English butler in the story who proves just as colorful.

Lee Plunkett is Archie Goodwin without the fighting ability and marksmanship. He’s in his thirties, filled with self-doubt and shadows of his successful and domineering father, but he has a hero’s heart when the chips are down. I thought he was fine in the first half of the book, but I was rooting for him by the second half because Nethercott reveals the character in endearing ways that springs right out of the plot.

The mystery is conducted very much in the Christie vein, with our heroes questioning person after person, getting the different stories and putting them together. There’s enough of the séance background to whet the appetite for more, but it doesn’t get in the way of the chase. And Nethercott doesn’t hesitate about using the Raymond Chandler rule of throwing a man through the door with a gun in his fist to shake things up.

I really enjoyed this novel and am looking forward to the second one. The 1950s background didn’t make much of an impression on me, and I’m not really sure why the author chose that. Maybe it was because spiritualism and other things were more relevant then and he wants to explore those venues in a more innocent light. Either way, I loved the banter between Plunkett and O’Nelligan and am now tracking down the short stories they’ve appeared in as well.

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