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by Agatha Christie
William Morrow, September 2019
368 pages
ISBN: 006295914X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Agatha Christie fans will find the short-story collection THE LAST SEANCE: TALES OF THE SUPERNATURAL hard to resist, and its offerings of easily digestible bites of the author's unmistakable style may draw in new fans, too.

As the title suggests, these twenty short stories all involve the supernatural, but the mystery of the supernatural varies from entirely unexplained events, such as in the title story where a seance goes horribly wrong, to events that, in the end, turn out to be more human in nature than supernatural. No spoilers here, but theft, greed, revenge, and murder are as present in this collection as they are in Christie's novels. Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot also make appearances, the latter more prominently than the former. Poirot's little grey cells are hard at work in "The Flock of Geryon" which has a well-played surprise at the end. In "The Dream," Poirot and his methods get a bit more of a workout but he, as always, succeeds in solving a seemingly perfect murder. Miss Marple is in fine form in "The Blue Geranium," which has perhaps the cleverest solve in the collection. But Miss Marple, while coming up with the solution, doesn't play a prominent role even in that story, simply because the length of the stories doesn't give much room for visits and clue gathering—all of the stories move at quick, plot-driven paces. Settings range from Paris to the English countryside to Egypt, and the unearthly aspects range from seances and ghosts to psychic visions, ancient curses, and body switchings.

While all twenty stories feature supernatural elements, they are varied enough that the collection as a whole never gets dull. All also have plenty of recognizably Christie-esque elements, and even "The Wife of Kenite," though this is its first U.S. publication, will seem familiar to Christie fans in its theme and execution. But familiar doesn't mean unremarkable. All the stories have enough surprises to keep interest high and pages turning. If you're looking for a good Halloween read involving both the chillingly normal and eerily paranormal, this collection will satisfy on all counts.

§ Meredith Frazier, a writer with a background in English literature, lives in Dallas, Texas

Reviewed by Meredith Frazier, October 2019

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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