Living with the Dead

by Brian Stableford

cover by Daniele Serra

The concluding volume of the trilogy, Living with the Dead is set in and around Toulouse, shortly after the death in Paris of Jane de La Vaudère. Madame Louvot is now serving as Paul Furneret’s housekeeper. He is living close to an old convent leased by the cult launched in Paris seven years before by Zosima and now operated as  quasi-Fouierist feminist “phalanstery,” the residents of which apparently have orders not to communicate with him, although they supply gods from their farm and their distillery to him via Madame Louvot.

Paul is visited in his cottage by Victor Marvaud, Gaston Lambrunet and Gaston’s new wife, who are keen to persuade him to return to Paris. Their visit coincides with a “coup d’état” in Zosima’s organization that deposes her, and the convent is taken over by a “trinity” of her previous colleagues, all Toulousans, led by a woman named Lilith, who have their own ideas regarding the significance and utility of the supposed revelations of their memories of anterior lives. Also visiting Toulouse are Richard and Ellen Megister, the English owners of the domain in which the convent and Paul’s cottage are situated.
Zosima and Lilith have both researched Paul’s background extensively, and both have discovered information that might help him to identify his mysterious “guardian angel” and to decipher the mystery of his supernatural ability, which Lilith has a plan to exploit. The characters’ various conflicting agendas rapidly become entangled and confused, and events move very rapidly when Paul, who no longer needs the help of expert hypnotists to entrance him, finding his continuing contacts with the dead adequate to achieve that result, begins to catalyze new psychic links—but not the ones that Lilith intends him to induce. Those psychic phenomena have unintended fatal results that leave Paul in no doubt at all as to the dangers inherent in his seemingly-uncontrollable power, and confront him with a stark challenge and an awkward dilemma.