Paper Ghosts [review]

Paper Ghosts

Title: Paper Ghosts
Author: Julia Hearberlin
Publisher: Penguin


My Sister disappeared.

I know who took her.

Now I’ve taken him.


Carl Louis Feldman is an old man who once took photographs.

That was before he was tried for murder and acquitted.

Before dementia and his admission to a Texas care facility.

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 woman driving the car is convinced he’s guilty, and that he’s killed other young women. Including her sister Rachel.

Now they’re driving across Texas, following his photographs, his clues, his crimes. To see if he remembers any of it. To discover what 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 badlands she’s taking a terrible risk.

For if Carl really is a serial killer, she’s alone in the most dangerous place of all…

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[My Review]

Having hugely enjoyed Black Eyed Susans, I was really excited to read Paper Ghosts, and though it took a little longer to get into, I found this to be an interesting and, at times, quite creepy novel.

Main character Grace has her own aims when she offers to take her ‘father’ on a road trip – her sister Rachel disappeared years ago and the Police’s main suspect was (is?) her supposed grandfather, Carl. She wants to finally find out what’s happening, and will seemingly stop at nothing to do so…

The story starts off with a lot of impact, but it is quite a slow burner. A lot of the plot centers around the dialogue and ‘games’ the two play with eachother, meaning if you’re looknig for a ‘thrilling’ read, this probably isn’t for you. However, the tension builds as the novel continues and I found myself really wondering who knows what, and how much is actually a lie? I liked this element of doubt that Julia throws in.

The use of photographs added to the impact and ultimately the story becomes less about who the killer is, and more about how Grace will ‘deal’ with Carl. Julia Heaberlin’s writing is really skillful and makes you want to know more by teasing out little details via Grace, which did leave me feeling a little confused at times (but wanting to know more) with an added sense of ‘chill’ surrounding the whole, horrible case – at times you can almost feel Grace’s desperation bouncing off the page. Paper Ghosts is a very well-written, slow-building story which I enjoyed.

Many thanks to Penguin and Netgalley for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.



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