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26 January 2015

Alan Finn's Things Half In Shadows

***I received this title for free thanks to NetGalley and Gallery Books. 
Receiving this at no charge in no way influenced my feelings.***

It's 1869 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Civil War had ended only 4 years prior and the Spiritualist Movement was having a boom. People were desperate to reach out to their lost loved ones and looked to mediums for help in doing so. While some mediums were thought to truly have a gift at connecting with the dead, many were thought to be tricksters and illusionists.

Edward Clark is a war veteran-turned newspaper reporter who mainly covers crime in the city, has been given the assignment of uncovering the truth about the mediums working in Philadelphia. Not only is he familiar with crime, but also with illusions -- having performed several for coworkers in the past. Illusions, the reader soon learns, that he learned from his parents who were performers when he was young. At the age of ten he witnessed his mother's death during a performance and saw his father arrested for her murder. His own life, in fact, is an illusion. Edward Clark, you see, is a borrowed identity.

Setting out on his task to take down the charlatans, Edward encounters the "medium" Mrs Lucy Collins and quickly figures out the truth behind her "gift."  Lucy also figures out the truth about Edward, though, and convinces him (through blackmail) to work with her to take down her competition. He gets his story, gets to keep the secret of his identity, and she gets the business left behind when the others are shut down and/or run out of town.

Their first visit is to a séance at the home of Lenora Grimes Pastor -- the most well-known medium in the city. Pastor appears to be authentic but, before the end of the night, she dies. The police declare it to be murder and all those who were in attendance, of course, are suspects. This includes Edward and Lucy, a married couple who lost their son in the war, a widow, and the famed showman (and known skeptic of Spiritualism) P.T. Barnum. Knowing that their lives will be in limbo until the true killer is discovered, Edward and Lucy continue to work together to seek out the truth.

There's so much that I love about this book.

There are ghost stories, of course, and I love a good ghost story.

There are mysteries upon mysteries ... with more mysteries upon those.

There's Philadelphia. (Tom and I have discussed at great length how the only other city we could see ourselves living in happily is Philly.) The setting is laid with such vivid detail that I feel like I can clearly place myself in 1869 Philly complete with the sights and sounds and smells and, for lack of a better word, feels.

You know, like "the feels?"

And oh are there ever feels! Especially when it comes to our sleuthing do, Edward and Lucy.

Edward tries so hard to be proper and gentlemanly and not the son of a convicted murderer/illusionist. He lives in a proper little house making a proper living and is engaged to a proper young lady from a very proper family. And then there's Lucy. She's a handful and they butt heads quite regularly (let's not forget that they came together because he was making her out to be a fraud and she blackmailed him into not going through with it). She fascinates him, though, and seems to give him the spark that was otherwise missing in his proper little life. Likewise, he seems to give her a sense of legitimacy and importance that was probably missing from her not-at-all-proper life.

You should know by now that I won't tell you what happens. You should pick up the book yourself (the cover image at the top of the page is a link, by the way). What I will tell you is that it seems as though this may not be the last we see of Edward and Lucy and I, for one, cannot wait to see what comes next.


  1. Great review! Looks like I may be reading this. lol

    1. Oh it's delicious, Amy! Abby might like it, too!

  2. Great review! I need to stop reading your blog...there is no way I can catch up on all these books! Just started "The Gates" by John Connolly!

    1. Oh yay! I can't wait to hear how you like it!