Tuesday, 19 May 2015
Author: Alan Finn
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Page Count (paperback): 448
Publisher: Gallery, Threshold Pocket Books
First Published: December 30, 2014
First Line: "When people mention Lenora Grimes Pastor, if they still speak of her at all, many insist that she was killed by a ghost."
Book Description from GoodReads: Postbellum America makes for a haunting backdrop in this historical and supernatural tale of moonlit cemeteries, masked balls, cunning mediums, and terrifying secrets waiting to be unearthed by an intrepid crime reporter.
The year is 1869, and the Civil War haunts the city of Philadelphia like a stubborn ghost. Mothers in black continue to mourn their lost sons. Photographs of the dead adorn dim sitting rooms. Maimed and broken men roam the streets. One of those men is Edward Clark, who is still tormented by what he saw during the war. Also constantly in his thoughts is another, more distant tragedy--the murder of his mother at the hands of his father, the famed magician Magellan Holmes...a crime that Edward witnessed when he was only ten.
Now a crime reporter for one of the city's largest newspapers, Edward is asked to use his knowledge of illusions and visual trickery to expose the influx of mediums that descended on Philadelphia in the wake of the war. His first target is Mrs. Lucy Collins, a young widow who uses old-fashioned sleight of hand to prey on grieving families. Soon, Edward and Lucy become entwined in the murder of Lenora Grimes Pastor, the city's most highly regarded--and by all accounts, legitimate--medium, who dies mid-seance. With their reputations and livelihoods at risk, Edward and Lucy set out to find the real killer, and in the process unearth a terrifying hive of secrets that reaches well beyond Mrs. Pastor.
Blending historical detail with flights of fancy, "Things Half in Shadow" is a riveting thriller where "Medium" and "The Sixth Sense" meet "The Alienist"--and where nothing is quite as it seems...
My Review: A sign of a good book is when you're engaged right from the beginning. This happened for me with the debut novel, Things Half in Shadow. I loved how the book opens with the foreword written by Edward 'at the behest' of his granddaughter who has quite the macabre disposition and love of ghost stories. In order to please his granddaughter Edward writes down the ghost stories that he knows. It's one of these ghost stories that makes up Things Half In Shadow which was a very atmospheric historical fiction, suspense, paranormal and mystery all blended into a really enjoyable read.
Finn writes about an era that I admittedly didn't know much about. But he deftly brings the reader into life in post-Civil War Philadelphia and delves into the emotional waters of the PTSD that the soldiers faced. He also focuses on the increase in spiritualism and people's desire for psychic intervention to 'reach' their lost loved ones after the war which I found fascinating. It was a time of great loss and people reached out in many different ways to ease their pain and likewise there were many charlatans who were eager to take their money and give the answers they yearned for (sometimes using quite intricate means).
Edward was an interesting character that I could get behind. He's an independently wealthy crime reporter for one of the local Philadelphia newspapers which gives him ample reasons for further exploits. He's a rather quiet leading man but it's his hidden identity and his family background made him quite compelling as a main character. He has a lot on his plate with trying to maintain his relationship with a society debutante while being thrust into an uncomfortable assignment and being forced to deal with a woman he finds quite detestable. But it's this bantering with Mrs Lucy Collins, the detestable woman aforementioned, which was refreshing and brought a levity and an energy to the book. She was a great balance to Edward's more subdued character making her my favourite character in the book. Her energy and humour reminds me of Lady Julia Grey (Deanna Raybourne's heroine) which made her easy to adore. She was feisty, stubborn, forthright, funny and doesn't apologize for what she does to make a living.
There is a romance angle in the book but it was thankfully not overdone. But it was also easily foreseeable too. It's not that I'm knocking the way it was done because I did, for the most part, enjoy that aspect but it was a little to predictable for my liking.
This was a very impressive debut novel. Finn has an enjoyable writing style and a gift for putting his readers into the mindset and atmosphere of the post Civil War era with great ease. This is a great stand-alone read but it also opens the door for further exploits for Edward and Lucy which I am most eager to read.
My Rating: 4/5 stars
Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to NetGalley and Gallery Books for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.