The Dark Between
By Sonia Gensler
Expected publication August 27, 2013 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
For different reasons, Kate, Asher, and Elsie have all found each other at Summerfield College. Each has some connection to the new world of spiritualism that is all the rage in turn-of-the-century England. But their connections are varied and some are even dangerous. When dead bodies begin appearing near the college, the three team up to sort out the mystery. Is it a flesh-and-blood killer? Or do the answers lie somewhere in the dark between?
I guess here is even further proof that I am desperate for a creepy read. I requested this title because I like historical fiction, and I thought the intersection of historical fiction and paranormal would be fun. This book was not really anything like what I expected.
What I expected was a deeper exploration of spiritualism, particularly in regards to the place and time in which this book is set. The official blurb makes it sound as if the book will focus on how the mediums dupe their patrons as well as the group of scientists who believe in psychic powers and what their research might entail. It makes it sound as if the aforementioned trio will conduct their own experiments and investigations into the supernatural in an attempt to solve a recent murder. And it starts out this way. Soon, however, the book veers more heavily into the paranormal and romance stories and seems to leave the historical parts behind.
I liked the story best in the beginning - reading about Kate's employment with the medium and the schemes that she ran. When Kate loses her employment and seeks sanctuary at Summerfield, she meets Elsie, a young woman who suffers from seizures. It's not terribly long before we discover that Elsie seems to see spirits during her seizures - but only if she doesn't take a certain medicine. What the story becomes from this point on is an assertion that ghosts and psychic powers are real. Asher mainly exists to serve as the doubting Thomas of the story, never believing in the spiritual world until the proof is immediate before his eyes. Asher is also, of course, quite smitten with Elsie, so he serves that secondary purpose as well. I found Elsie and her romantic entanglements quite a bit ridiculous and wish that the story hadn't needed them to move forward. I don't feel particularly strongly about any of the other characters, though I did think Kate was rather charming. Most of the time, though, I just wished the story were something it wasn't, making this another disappointment for me.
Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via Edelweiss.