Julia Heaberlin's novels are set in Texas and radiate her attachment to the state and the wide assortment of people who inhabit it. My favorite is still Black-Eyed Susans, but Paper Ghosts is and entertaining puzzle involving Grace, a young woman whose beloved older sister disappeared when Grace was twelve.
Grace has spent the intervening years searching for clues, determined to discover what happened to Rachel. Carl Feldman, a gifted documentary photographer, was once suspected of the murder of several young women across the state. Now, he is an old man who suffers from dementia.
Grace considers Feldman a good possibility to have kidnapped and murdered her sister. She visits the home where he is being cared for claiming to be his daughter. He agrees to accompany her on a road trip to visit the locations of some of his eery photographs. At times, Carl seems a bit lost, at other times, you question the dementia diagnosis and worry about what Grace has gotten herself into. After all, if Carl is guilty, she has put herself in a dangerous situation.
While parts of the narrative are fascinating, there are some slow and repetitive sections as well. From Galveston to Marfa, the two tour the locations of missing women and of many of Carl's photographs.
I liked this novel despite some slow spots and an ambiguous conclusion, in which you learn some answers, but by no means all.
Playing Dead, Black-Eyed Susans, and Paper Ghosts, each have a character with dementia. Since there could hardly be a family in America who hasn't felt the heartache of Alzheimer's or some form of dementia, either within their own family or the families of friends and colleagues--it seems appropriate.
Heaberlin's acknowledgements include interesting personal comments about some of the elements that went into the creation of Paper Ghosts, including the grandfather who shot crime scene photographs; her friend, Texas photographer Jill Johnson; and the eery photographs of Keith Carter.
Read in November; blog review scheduled for April 23, 2018.
Mystery/Suspense. May 15, 2018. Print length: 368 pages.