Title: Things Half in Shadow by Alan Finn
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre: Historical, Mystery, Supernatural
Length: 448 pages
Book Rating: A
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
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-séance. 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…
Things Half in Shadow by Alan Finn is an impeccably written historical novel that is highly entertaining and quite riveting. Written in first person in the form of a memoir, this compelling story is the perfect blend of humor, supernatural elements and mystery. Plenty of twists and turns, misdirects and closely guarded secrets make it impossible to guess the killer’s identity until the novel’s dramatic and pulse pounding conclusion.
Edward Clark is less than thrilled with his latest assignment from his editor at the paper where he is a successful crime reporter. Ordered to investigate the proliferation of fraudulent mediums operating in the city, Edward reluctantly finds himself teaming up with Mrs. Lucy Collins to solve the murder of Lenora Grimes Pastor. Edward neither likes nor trusts Lucy but when she threatens to expose his past, he has no choice but to work with her to prove they had nothing to do with Lenora’s death.
Edward has left his notorious past behind him and he is quite content with the life he has carved out for himself. He loves his job as a crime beat reporter, he is happily engaged to a lovely young woman and he remains close friends with his old war buddy and current police detective William Barclay. No one has any idea of the secrets he is keeping, so when Lucy easily uncovers his real identity, Edward is terrified of the truth getting out. Edward is surprised to discover that lurking beneath his dislike for the charlatan is a grudging respect and a surprising attraction that he works hard to ignore.
Despite the fact she is a fraud, it is impossible not to like Lucy. She is a strong and vivacious woman and she is also well connected and fiendishly clever. With few options available to women in the time period, she is doing what she has to do to keep a roof over her and her brother’s head. Edward quickly exposes her as a fraud but in order to support herself, she has no compunction about coercing him into working with her. Lucy, too, has a past she wants to remain hidden, but secrets have a way of coming out when least expected and Lucy has to trust that Edward will protect her.
The mystery aspect of the storyline is topnotch and while the investigation uncovers numerous motives for Lenora’s murder, Edward and Lucy quickly rule out many of their suspects. The investigation takes a surprising turn when Edward links Lenora’s death to another young woman’s but trying to figure out the connection between them is not easy. Equally perplexing is the unexpected appearance of Edward’s fiancée’s younger brother, Jasper. But the most stunning turn of events brings Edward face to face with his infamous past and what he uncovers takes the case in a most shocking direction.
A positively outstanding mystery, Things Half in Shadow by Alan Finn is an excellent novel that has a unique storyline and an incredible cast of well drawn characters. The supernatural element of the plot is so well done that even the most hardened skeptic will rethink their stance on ghosts and mediums. The séance scenes are quite eerie and the startling twist at the novel’s end is very spooky. Exciting plot twists keep readers guessing whodunit until the spectacular finale. While all of the story’s loose ends are neatly wrapped up, there are some unexpected revelations that appear to leave the door open for future novels starring the very likable Edward Clark.