My review of Things Half in Shadow first appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers. I am posting it today with their permission. As I mentioned last week, this ended up being one of my favorite reads of 2014. It's not your same old crime novel, read on...
First line: "When people mention Lenora Grimes Pastor, if they still speak of her at all, many insist that she was killed by a ghost."
An historical superhero is born in the first book of a fascinating new series by Alan Finn, pen name of mystery writer Todd Ritter. Things Half in Shadow blends historical fiction with the contemporary thriller, comic book, mystery and paranormal for an entrancing adventure.
Edward Clark, a crime reporter who is secretly the son of a disgraced magician in prison for murder, explains the novel is a "chronicle, or memoir, or whatever you care to call it." He details the high profile investigation into the 1869 death of Lenora Grimes Pastor, a famous Philadelphia medium murdered during a séance Clark attended. The case alters Clark's existence in ways he never could have imagined.
Finn visits the literary smorgasbord to create this divine story. The historical research pulls in not only the period's obsession with spiritualism, ghosts and those who speak with the dead, but it creates a distinct setting using the Eastern State Penitentiary, destructively muddy and rutted roads, wire bridges, and the Underground Railroad.
Forensic techniques and investigative practices of the postbellum period combine with the paranormal elements to provide a high suspense level. While the superhero trope adds an evil force, injects action and keeps the pace swift, it is also subdued by its marriage to spiritualism, preventing the dynamics from becoming unbelievable.
In addition to manipulating strings on a variety of genre elements, Finn devises a crack cast readers will delight in meeting. Many things are in shadow for this series debut, but its high quality isn't one. Bring on the next installment.
Things Half in Shadow is available in trade paperback from Gallery Books.