John Harwood was born in Hobart and educated in Tasmania and at Cambridge University. He went on to become Head of the School of English and Drama at Flinders University in Adelaide before leaving to write full time. His novel The Ghost Writer, first published by Jonathan Cape in 2004, won the International Horror Guild's First Novel Award for Outstanding Achievement in Horror and Dark Fantasy. The Seance, a dark mystery set in Victorian England, won the Aurealis Award for Best Horror Novel of 2008.
As he did in The Ghost Writer and The Seance, Australian author Harwood evokes Charles Palliser and Louis Bayard in his engrossing third stand-alone Victorian thriller. In the first sentence, Georgina Ferrars declares, "I woke, as it seemed, from a nightmare of being stretched on the rack, only to sink into another dream in which I was lying on a strange bed, afraid to open my eyes for fear of what I might see." Alas, Georgina finds herself in a Cornwall asylum, whose sinister director, Dr. Maynard Straker, tells her that she arrived the previous day, November 1, 1882, and identified herself as 21-year-old Lucy Ashton. With no memory of the previous six weeks, Georgina is hard-pressed to refute Straker. Only gradually do the events that led to her confinement become clear. The crisp prose and twisty plot will encourage many to read this in one sitting, though the ending won't satisfy everyone. Agent: Kathleen Anderson, Anderson Literary Management. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
In this gothic tale, a young woman wakes up as a patient in an insane asylum. She has no memory of checking herself in, but her doctor tells her she did so voluntarily under the name Lucy Ashton. When she insists that her name is Georgina Ferrars, the doctor makes inquiries, then reports that the real Georgina Ferrars is safely at home in London. Our Georgina doesn't know whom to trust, including herself. But her first priority must be to escape from the asylum then work on uncovering how and why she ended up there. Old letters offer enigmatic clues from the past. -VERDICT Harwood (The Seance) focuses on creating a suitably chilling atmosphere and an appealing, if helpless, heroine, but the cardboard villains are obvious and uninspired. The middle section of the novel, in epistolary style, is far more compelling than the straightforward narrative. Overall, this is a lighter read than Harwood's earlier works.-Laurel Bliss, San Diego State Univ. Lib. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.