Publication Date: 19th April from Michael Joseph
Source: Review copy
Carl Louis Feldman is an old man who was once a celebrated photographer.
That was before he was tried for the murder of a young woman and acquitted.
Before his admission to a care home for dementia .
Now his daughter has come to see him, to take him on a trip.
Only she’s not his daughter and, if she has her way, he’s not coming back . . .
Because Carl’s past has finally caught up with him. The young woman driving the car is convinced her passenger is guilty, and that he’s killed other young women. Including her sister Rachel.
Now they’re following the trail of his photographs, his clues, his alleged crimes. To see if he remembers any of it. Confesses to any of it. To discover what really happened to Rachel.
Has Carl truly forgotten what he did or is he just pretending? Perhaps he’s guilty of nothing and she’s the liar.
Either way in driving him into the Texan wilderness she’s taking a terrible risk.
For if Carl really is a serial killer, she’s alone in the most dangerous place of all . . .
I loved Paper Ghosts. When I finished it I wanted to cry and I wasn’t sure why or who for. It’s interesting that this is a crime novel that ends up, to my mind, being about nearly everything but the crime.
Paper Ghosts is a dual-edged character drama, two people caught up in a mental game of cat and mouse, in Grace’s case not only with Carl but with herself. She believes he killed her sister, she is not sure if his illness is real or an attempt to hide, for Carl’s part he’s not saying. The interactions and relationship that grows between these two forms the backbone of the novel – it is fascinating, emotional, haunting and occasionally somewhat beautiful.
Grace is obsessed, determined, Carl is…well what is Carl exactly? Julia Heaberlin captures the sense of dementia pitch perfectly – my Mother is declining with every day so I know – that jumpy, unpredictable behaviour, the flashes of coherence within a maelstrom of unconnected memories and comments, never knowing how they’ll be not only from one day to the next but from one moment to the next. As these two move ever onward on their twisted road trip, they have a kind of psychological battle of wills, I just couldn’t look away.
Paper Ghosts is not a thriller, it is a slow burner, it builds the tension with every page. The photography angle is eerily ingrained into the wider narrative, giving the whole thing a strangely nostalgic feel, I shall definitely be buying a copy of this, the visual sense of it with the added pictures is a clever feature that just involves you further.
In the end we have resolution, possibly not in the way you would expect – it left me feeling edgy and slightly disconnected, like I said earlier wanting to cry but not sure why.
The writing is beautiful, the story is both beautiful and eerily sinister, if you are looking for those huge twist moments then you won’t find those here – what you will find is an elegantly constructed mystery, the mystery being one of character rather than event in it’s heart – I thought it was beautifully different, cleverly emotive and completely addictive.