Sarah finds herself pulled into the murky, late-Victorian world of questionable but fashionable spiritism when her mother, Mrs. Felix Decker, requests Sarah attend a seance with her in order to contact the spirit of Sarah's late sister, Maggie.
While seemingly unexplainable events transpire at the seance at Waverly Place, Sarah isn't buying any of it and discourages her mother from attending any future events.
Shortly thereafter, however, Sarah is summoned to the house on Waverly Place by Detective Sergeant Frank Malloy at the behest of her mother, who just happened to be attending a seance where a murder has just taken place of the woman who hosted the event; a woman, apparently, not well liked by anyone.
Suspects abound despite the fact that all evidence points to the lover of the young spiritist, Madame Saraphina, except for one slight problem: the boy wasn't in the room at the time.
Sarah, being the girl she is, immediately champions the young spiritist and her lover in an attempt to clear his name and Frank, being the guy he is (and the fact he's crazy about Sarah) proceeds with as much investigation as he dares, given that the clients who were involved in the seance are all members of society's upper crust.
Sarah and Frank discover nothing is quite as it seems as they carefully navigate the investigation and slowly unravel the secrets of the Privileged and the Parlor Snakes. The problem is, it's difficult to tell who belongs to which group.
The only 'negative' and disappointing aspect of this book, and why I didn't rate it with 5 stars, is the complete lack of romantic interaction between Frank and Sarah. Yes, we all like a well-crafted murder mystery - but the romantic element, which provides necessary texture to what is otherwise just another 'whodunit' is, for all intents and purposes, completely absent and I think was a disservice to the story as well as to the characters.
All in all, a cozy read, and I look forward to the next installment, provided we see some growth in Frank and Sarah's relationship. Two other endearing characters who did not make an appearance in this book were Frank's mother and Frank's son. I look forward to seeing more of them in the next books to come.