Thursday, February 26, 2015
History Corner: Things Half in Shadow by Alan Finn
Disclosure / Disclaimer: I received this book, free of charge, from Gallery Books, via NetGalley, for review purposes on this blog. No other compensation, monetary or in kind, has been received or implied for this post. Nor was I told how to post about it
And now for a book that takes us back to the days post-Civil War, when the country was still mourning the loss of their sons and husbands...
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.
While fiction, this book gives a breadth of info on the time period, and the rise of spiritualism, and the reasons for it. It documents the 'tricks of the trade' and the deep and sudden loss of so many families. Add to that a proper sleight of hand, magic based murder mystery, and you have a charming mystery that will remind you of Edgar Allen Poe in more ways than one. The book also delves into family secrets and how people were defined by the 'sins of the father', leading to extreme family dysfunction. It is an interesting tale of greed versus good, of mis-perception versus reality and fact versus fiction. Good luck in reading it in more than one sitting, this is one that will keep you up late into the night.
About the Author:
Alan Finn is the pen name of an acclaimed author of mysteries and thrillers. He has worked as an editor, journalist, and ghostwriter. He lives in Princeton, New Jersey.