"A deliciously modern classic ghost story" —Chloe Benjamin, New York Times bestselling author of The Immortalists
The Clairvoyants is Karen Brown’s most hypnotic novel to date--gothic-inflected psychological suspense that unmasks the secret desires of a young woman with a mystical gift
On the family homestead by the sea where she grew up, Martha Mary saw ghosts. As a young woman, she hopes to distance herself from those spirits by escaping to an inland college town. There, she is absorbed by a budding romance, relieved by separation from an unstable sister, and disinterested in the flyers seeking information about a young woman who’s disappeared—until one Indian summer afternoon when the missing woman appears beneath Martha’s apartment window, wearing a down coat, her hair coated with ice.
In Brown's gripping second novel (after 2013's The Longings of Wayward Girls), narrator Martha can see the dead, though she doesn't feel obligated to help them. But she's intrigued when she begins to see the ghost of Mary Rae Swindal, a girl reported missing in Martha's upstate New York college town. Mary Rae's ghost leads Martha to a house where she meets William Bell, a fellow photographer. Martha and William have a whirlwind courtship that ends in their marrying on the day of Mary Rae's funeral. Martha's unstable sister, Del, with whom Martha shares a dark childhood secret, follows Martha to Ithaca after spending three years in a psychiatric institution. Through William, the sisters end up spending time with his mentor, Anne, and a mourning group of girls from Mary Rae's nearby hometown, Milton. William's behavior becomes increasingly worrisome as Martha starts to see visions of him in the place where Mary Rae died; Martha and Del begin to wonder if he might be dangerous. Martha's faith in Del is also challenged, though another traumatic event forces them to rely on each other. Brown's novel is a riveting page-turner. She deftly reveals bits of Martha's and Del's past in tandem with more details about the mystery that Martha is trying to unravel, leaving the reader wondering if Martha might be an unreliable narrator. Though the ending isn't entirely satisfying, Brown shows an admirable ability to create suspense.