Friday, February 6, 2015

Things in Half Shadow by Alan Finn

For lack of a better starting point, I shall begin this particular tale on a foggy morning in April of 1869. the mist rose off the water in thick, brownish puffs that reminded me of cannon smoke. It moved in the same skittish manner--an ever-shifting curtain of haze that offered fleeting glimpses of Petty's Island as the fog approached the dock. I felt a familiar, unwelcome shudder of dread when the fog crashed over us. Tucked in its rolling tendrils was a heady stew of familiar odors. Damp earth. Dirty water. Decay. Opening Paragraph

Synopsis:  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…


This novel is a luminously crafted journey into the world of mediums during the Victorian era, in which speaking to the dead through séances was an obsession. The novel immediately draws the reader into the story. Oddly eerie, full of magic and tricks, and unusual characters, this is one awesome tale with its numerous subplots that twist and turn kept me flipping pages at a furious pace. And the story culminates into an utterly satisfying conclusion!

The narrative is wonderfully descriptive and lyrical. I also loved the setting which takes place in Philadelphia after the American Civil War when there was an abundance of bereft mothers and widows seeking closure after the deaths of their loved ones. The character of Lucy was very well depicted – a bodacious charlatan with plenty of guts and brash readers cannot help but adore. And at the heart of the story is burgeoning romance. This book has it all – suspense, romance, occultism, revenge, and mystery. A definite must read!

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