Kim Taylor Blakemore’s brand of historical thrillers not only bring to life a long ago time, but they also elucidate how relevant yesterday is to today and how that can and will affect tomorrow. By centering her female characters in plots that are very much of their time period, Blakemore manages to reinforce the importance of knowing from whence we came, so as to avoid allowing society to repeat the sins of the past. With The Deception, Kim Taylor Blakemore tackles the thriving Spiritualism Movement of the late 1800s through the story of two strong-willed women.
Were it not for the plethora of scams and harsh accusations against mediums, the Spiritualism field would likely have continued to flourish and there are still remnants of it in our society today. The Deception begins in 1877, when Maud Price’s reputation is in tatters. Maud was once a highly regarded child medium able to connect people with the spirits of their lost loved ones, but somewhere along the line her tenuous bond with the afterlife has vanished. As she is losing more and more clients – and the financial security that brings – Maud connects with Clementine Watkins, a woman skilled at faking séances and that ilk through the uses of theatrics and misdirection. It is a credit to Kim Taylor Blakemore’s writing skill that she can make these women both mirror images of each other and complete opposites at the same time.
The partnership proves to be successful, but Maud’s guilt over lying and the continued depression over the loss of her abilities may be too much for her to bear. After this meteoric rise and a few dubious encounters, folks begin to become suspicious of both the enterprise itself and of Clem’s maybe-not-so-altruistic motives – a combination that seems destined to end with a clash between the true believer and the fraudster.
Kim Taylor Blakemore excels with both character and setting here. Both Maud and Clem become fully realized characters to such an extent that readers will find their loyalties torn, even as more and more of the truth is exposed. Blakemore takes her time in the early chapters of this novel to allow these reader-bonds to build slowly, but also so that she, as the author, can work her manipulative magic which only comes to fruition in the final half of the novel. Meanwhile, nineteenth-century New Hampshire is brought vividly to life with both precise detail and a more generic “historical” vibe – a technique that turns out to be a powerful combination.
Fans of Gothic literature will find much to love about The Deception. It is ironic how with a novel about sleight of hand and trickery, Kim Taylor Blakemore manages to pull the wool over the eyes of the reader leading to an ending that is both shocking and remarkably satisfying.
Disclaimer: A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the author. No promotion was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.