Paper Ghosts by Julia Heaberlin

Review published on July 10, 2018.

Julia Heaberlin, author of Black Eyed Susans, has written another excellent book. It is gripping and mesmerising from the first page, packed with tension until its denouement and hence extremely difficult to put down.

Grace’s 15-year-old sister Rachel never made the 3 mile bike ride she set off on. Since then, Grace has produced a diary of how to cope and to hunt down her killer. Carl Feldman, the man she is convinced is guilty, is now in a Texas care home with dementia. Grace poses as Carl’s daughter and takes him on a road trip to places where key murder victims were found to see if it will generate memories that can explain her sister’s disappearance. Whilst booking into hotel rooms, using her carefully saved money, with someone deemed a murderer is perhaps not the wisest thing to do, she is nonetheless compelled to execute her plan. There is a steady tension throughout as she puts into place her carefully woven plans. If he is a killer she is exposing herself to a lot of danger…

Carl is a fantastic character. He has both an edge of menace as well as a comical and amusing element to him that makes him almost impossible to dislike – yet you never know whether he can be trusted. Whilst he may have dementia and there are some behaviours that make it evident he has, he is nevertheless also sharp as a coyote, quick-witted, calm and amusing. Things, as you might expect, don’t go to plan.

Using a character with dementia made for an insightful yet creative approach that is also realistic. Grace equally is a likeable character; someone you can readily relate to, in a situation with a life-long determination to find out what happened to her sister. The writing and storyline are refreshing and original, the journey doubles up as one of self-discovery and the ending has a decent twist. An excellent book that should appeal to a broad readership, this is to be strongly recommended.

Sara Garland 5/5

Paper Ghosts by Julia Heaberlin
Michael Joseph 9780718181345 hbk Apr 2018

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