Paper Ghosts – Julia Heaberlin


Paper Ghosts is published on 19 April 2018 by Penguin and is available to buy here

Carl Louis Feldman is an old man who was once a celebrated photographer.

That was before he was tried for the murder of a young woman and acquitted.

Before his admission to a care home for dementia.

Now his daughter has come to see him, to take him on a trip.

Only she’s not his daughter and, if she has her way, he’s not coming back . . .

Because Carl’s past has finally caught up with him. The young woman driving the car is convinced her passenger is guilty, and that he’s killed other young women. Including her sister Rachel.

Now they’re following the trail of his photographs, his clues, his alleged crimes. To see if he remembers any of it. Confesses to any of it. To discover what really happened to Rachel.

Has Carl truly forgotten what he did or is he just pretending? Perhaps he’s guilty of nothing and she’s the liar.

Either way in driving him into the Texan wilderness she’s taking a terrible risk.

For if Carl really is a serial killer, she’s alone in the most dangerous place of all . . .

My thoughts

Paper Ghosts is slightly odd. This makes it rather memorable. Julia Heaberlin gives us a slow moving relationship drama. This is a road trip, with a suspected serial killer.

This story takes us into the life of Grace, a woman who is desperate for answers about her missing elder sister. Grace was a twelve year old child, when her sister went missing. This lead to her becoming totally obsessed with the case. She is prepared to conquer her fears and face a monster. She worked out that a photographer, Carl Louis Feldman, was responsible for the murder. He was a prime suspect in the case. Grace has worked out, that he killed more than once. Carl is now living with dementia, in a care home. His memories are slowly being eradicated by illness. Grace believes that by taking him to his various crime scenes, that she can lift a lid on what happened and Carl will admit to his criminal past. Will Grace get to the truth? Will Carl’s memory recover enough to give Grace the answers she needs? Is Carl faking his illness?

With Paper Ghosts, Heaberlin presents a man living with dementia.  It is fairly convincing. He is a prisoner of his mind. We see frustration tipping over into anger and violence. We get a sense of the loss he has to live with and the impact on his identity. We see the man. It is a credit to the author, that we see humanity in Carl, through the dementia. He is not just an illness. He is multi-layered. Carl was a photographer. He has a history. He potentially is a killer. He is an enigma.

Carl and Grace are two unusual people. We see some marked similarities, between the two characters. Both seem to be lost. We don’t really trust either of them, in terms of their reliability. Grace is lost in the past, missing her sister. She thinks she has all of the answers. Carl is a victim of the dementia, taking away his past piece by piece. Grace finds Carl difficult to deal with, due to his illness and her suspicions about his nature. We see some moving scenes, as Grace has to adjust to living with Carl and his mindset.

Fascinating. Moving. Thought-provoking, as we get to know Carl and Grace. Julia Heaberlin makes the road trip genre her own.






About Northern Crime

Reviewer with a mind of her own. This is a collection of book reviews, which started in 2014. Mostly crime and odd other genres thrown in. Some I loved. Some I loathed. You get the picture.
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