REVIEW: The Other Side of Midnight by Simone St. James
“London, 1925. Glamorous medium Gloria Sutter made her fortune helping the bereaved contact loved ones killed during the Great War. Now she’s been murdered at one of her own seances, after leaving a message requesting the help of her former friend and sole rival, Ellie Winter. Ellie doesn’t contact the dead-at least, not anymore. She specializes in miraculously finding lost items. Still, she can’t refuse the final request of the only other true psychic she has known. Now Ellie must delve into Gloria’s secrets and plunge back into the world of hucksters, lowlifes, and fakes. Worse, she cannot shake the attentions of handsome James Hawley, a damaged war veteran who has dedicated himself to debunking psychics. As Ellie and James uncover the sinister mysteries of Gloria’s life and death, Ellie is tormented by nightmarish visions that herald the grisly murders of those in Gloria’s circle. And as Ellie’s uneasy partnership with James turns dangerously intimate, an insidious evil force begins to undermine their quest for clues, a force determined to bury the truth, and whoever seeks to expose it… “
Dear Ms. St. James,
When I checked on the release date of your next book and realized it isn’t going to be for a while, I decided to go back and read another of your earlier books that hasn’t been reviewed at DA yet. I enjoyed a lot of it but I had serious issues with several things and thought that the ending was all that plus the kitchen sink thrown in.
Ellie Winter is the real thing – a true psychic. She’s also pissed off at the unknown man who sits across from her, obviously trying to test her by asking Ellie to find something that doesn’t exist. He is grimly determined to continue and Ellie finally has to call it quits. Then she makes the mistake of telling him about something else, something she couldn’t have known about and thus proves to him that her abilities are real. Before she knows it, he’s roped her into finding out what happened to his sister.
Once Gloria and Ellie were – well not quite friends but acquaintances with benefits. Or perhaps a better way to describe it is that they were two of a kind and relieved to finally find someone who understood their world – the good and the bad. Gloria was the only other person besides her own now dead mother whom Ellie knew to be a real psychic. Gloria and Ellie had a past falling out and initially Ellie refuses to help Gloria’s brother. Then he pulls out a trump card and hints at official pressure he can bring to bear should Ellie not agree to assist with the investigation. Ellie’s career was almost ruined once and she can’t afford more negative public scrutiny.
Their next, public meeting draws the attention of another person from Ellie’s past who was one of the people to publicly proclaim Ellie’s mother as a fraud and Ellie’s powers as questionable. He’s one of the last people Ellie wants back in her life but he has contacts and skills. Soon he’s in on the quest even if Ellie doesn’t always tell him – or Scotland Yard – everything.
Gloria’s life was filled with shady characters and the last seance she did broke all her rules. What was behind that and what do people know that they’re not saying? Ellie’s not sure whom she can trust but once more murders are committed, she knows she has a killer on her trail.
The atmosphere in this book is wonderful: Dark, rain swept streets of London, seedy clubs where faux psychics try to work the crowd, nasty flats where the fringes of society live. Ellie straightens her stockings and her cloche hats and never goes out without her gloves. The romance between Ellie and James is slow burning but intense for all that. They are two wounded souls but I still think that their love isn’t built on survivors clinging to the same raft. They will help each other but the feelings are real.
The horrific losses of World War I hang over everyone. Bereaved loved ones are the bread and butter of psychics. But James survived the front lines only to continue fighting his battles at home. When Ellie “sees” something from his past, she is horrified but immediately understands what drives him to debunk people who prey on and profit from the desperate people trying to find peace. For James, this is personal. Ellie’s vision here and a few other times show clearly why she doesn’t try to contact the dead anymore.
There are many psychic things that Ellie says she won’t or can’t do – and then does. I could understand her reticence at first – those scenes where she does see ghosts are ghastly – but then as a killer stalked Ellie and the book wound to a close I was shaking my head. She could use her powers and quickly solve the murder. Someone knows who she is, what her powers are and where she lives yet Ellie walks out alone and then sets herself up. What?? It was a bit reminiscent of the movie character who goes into the basement knowing there is a serial killer on the loose. And despite the elaborate plot, I immediately figured out who the killer was as soon as he was described. The paranormal pile on at the end was just too much. Suddenly everyone’s a psychic and can see ghosts??
The setting and atmosphere were great and the romance is satisfying. I actually enjoyed a lot of the paranormal aspects but even with Ellie’s reasons, I couldn’t understand, beyond the plot, why she didn’t use her powers earlier. Then the denouement jumped the tracks and when the killer was unmasked, it was no surprise to me. C