Spitting Gold: A Novel

Image of Spitting Gold: A Novel
Release Date: 
May 14, 2024
Atria Books
Reviewed by: 

“A very different, very deceptive but very entertaining Gothic tale.”

Anyone knowing the Mothe daughters and father might describe them in one of two ways: either they were a family of con artists, preying on the gullible by pretending to relay messages from departed loved ones, or they were a devoted group of true spirit mediums benevolently delivering solace to grieving families with communications from the dead.

Either way, Sylvie Devereux hasn’t seen her sister Charlotte or their father in years, since the day she convinced her betrothed, Baron Alexandre Devereux, to save her sister from being sent to prison.

Alexander succeeded but only with the stipulation that Sophie divorce herself from her family. Sylvie agreed and has never seen Charlotte or their father again.

Until now.

When Charlotte appears at Sylvie’s door; she is destitute; the rent is due, and their father is terminally ill. Charlotte has one chance to make a final score that will bring them out of debt and allow their father to die peacefully, but she needs Sylvie’s help.

Charlotte has been hired to contact Comtesse Sabine de Lisle, the great-aunt of the de Jacquinots, near-penniless aristocrats who want to know where she hid her jewels before she was murdered during the Revolution.

At first, Sylvie refuses and sends Charlotte away. “Those games of yours no longer fit into my life. Some you understand that I am no longer at liberty to take the kinds of risks that you propose.”

Nevertheless, her sister’s reappearance plays on her guilt, making her finally agree and they go to the Jacquinots to arrange a séance.

Keeping Charlotte a secret from her husband, Sylvie finds the nobles an odd group—the grandfather who is a domestic tyrant; his daughter; her son Maximillien, who is the new marquis; and his sister Florence, the oddest of the lot. The neighbors consider Florence mad; involved in a love affair ending when her lover deserted her, she has spent a year in isolation, and is now wan and pale and behaves strangely at times.

The ghost of Sabine has first appeared to Florence, then to her grandfather. It also made a shambles of the house, flinging about furniture, destroying paintings, and causing general havoc to their possessions. They want the Mothe sisters to summon her and discover why she haunts them and where she hid the jewels they so badly need.

The seance is what no one expects. Something is summoned, but it not through Charlotte, the expected medium, that the entity speaks but through Florence, who delivers her message in a changed voice, spews ectoplasm from her lips, and afterward falls into a seizure.

Sylvie is frightened. Even Charlotte is confounded. Who is speaking through Florence? What has come from the other side to cause such terror to the household?

Planning a second try, Sylvie now finds herself in another dilemma. Husband Alexandre has grown suspicious of her trips to “visit” a friend and has her followed. When he learns she is going to the Marquis Jacquinot’s home, he assumes the worst.

“Alexandre, no! This had nothing to do with you.”

Alexandre gave a hollow laugh. “My wife an adulteress, and it has nothing to do with me?”

Alexandre throws Sylvie out of the house.

Sylvie’s only choice is to return to her father’s home where she now feels trapped into her former life while she struggles to keep her promise to Florence. What she discovers instead are the secret intrigues in the Jacquinot household.

Ardoir has two goals, not merely to banish the ghost but to also obtain her treasure. Sylvie has her own, personal agenda of revenge while Florence also has a secret, more intimate motive for continuing the seances.

It is up to Sylvie to help bring each of their intentions to its desired goal even as she realizes to do so will bring about disaster for one and all. “More mysteries to add to the pile, like bones in a pauper’s grave.”

Told from the point of view of both sisters, this device gives the reader two sides to the story and often two versions of the same event.

The title refers to the old story The Fairies by Charles Perrault, of two sisters, one blessed by a fairy so whenever she speaks, she spits gold coins, while the other is cursed to have toads leap from her mouth each time she opens it. It is a test of the reader’s imagination to decide which sister is which.

It is a well-written, beautifully worded description of passion, anger, grief, and deception with a conclusion that doesn’t reveal itself until the very last page.

Spitting Gold is a very different, very deceptive but very entertaining Gothic tale.