Leanna Renee Hieber’s “The Spectral City”: Psychic Murder in the Gilded Age

by Sharon Tucker

Details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of the review and links to purchase it.
“Be hole, be dust, be dream, be wind
Be night, be dark, be wish, be mind,
Now slip, now slide, now move unseen,
Above, beneath, betwixt, between.”
― Neil Gaiman, “The Graveyard Book”
Toward the end of the 19th century, while Queen Victoria ruled Britain, and France enjoyed its Belle Époque, the United States was in recovery from the Civil War and Reconstruction. Mark Twain and Charles Dudley dubbed it The Gilded Age—when political and economic corruption maintained a gilt veneer of wealth, industry, and progress. Spiritualism was a religion in itself by the end of the century in America, and séances, psychic readings, and ghostly interferences were a part of the landscape. It is from this fertile source that Leanna Renee Hieber has drawn in her first in a series, The Spectral City(2018).

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Enter Eve Whitby, a Sensitive. Whitby has the ability to not only see, but to communicate with ghosts. As the daughter of an influential Manhattan family, she is known to, and respected by, the most powerful in society. Therefore, thanks to the intellectual flexibility of Theodore Roosevelt, then Governor of the State of New York, Whitby heads up The Ghost Bureau, a paranormal investigative team whose task it is to utilize the influence the dead can have in fighting crime. However, the central dilemma facing Whitby and her department is that ghosts themselves, especially those known to the Whitbys, are disappearing one by one leaving a trace of utter wrongness. It becomes the task of The Ghost Bureau to investigate this phenomenon, and to save their more ethereal members.
Image Source Rebel Base Books

The novel teems with life—none more vital than that of its ghosts. There’s plenty of exposition to tell the reader who is who and what they do. However, since there are so many characters among both the living and the dead, keeping notes for reference is not only useful but pretty much necessary to keep track of the mediums, ghosts, and officials that people Hieber’s landscape. The reader will learn much about the history of the times and about the paranormal landscape, which was taken quite seriously by not only Roosevelt, but other luminaries such as Arthur Conan Doyle and Charles Dickens. Even Abraham Lincoln attended a séance after the death of his son. Many 19th century scientists who researched these phenomena became believers. Who knows? Reading “The Spectral City” might be your first step into another level of understanding.

To enter to win a copy of The Spectral City, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line "spectral,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen February 23, 2019. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address (so if you win we can get the book sent right out to you), and if via comment please include your email address. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.

You can find more fantasy reviews in our Fantasy and Fangs section.

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Sharon Tucker is former faculty at the University of Memphis in Memphis TN, and now enjoys evening supervising in that campus library. Having forsworn TV except for online viewing and her own movies, she reads an average of 3 to 4 books per week and has her first novel---a mystery, of course---well underway.

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.


  1. The Gilded Age is a particular favorite time period of mine. Thanks for the chance to make a visit with this book! crs(at)codedivasites(dot)com

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  3. Sounds like a fascinating book.

  4. Love the cover! Thanks for the chance!

    1. You are the winner! I sent you an email asking for your mailing address

    2. Thank you so much! Can't wait to read this!

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