Saturday, December 27, 2014

Things Half In Shadow-Alan Finn

Things Half In Shadow
Alan Finn
Gallery Books, Dec 30 2014, $16.00
ISBN: 9781476761725

The Civil War ended four years ago, but the residents of Philadelphia, like most of the country, still mourn their dead and the streets contain veterans who came home with visible injuries that can never heal and mental traumas no one understands.  Philadelphia Evening Bulletin crime reporter Edward Clark finds little things like the city’s fog reminding him of the horror of gun smoke he witnessed as a soldier at Antietam.  He also suffers from an older trauma; when he was ten Edward watched in revulsion his father Magellan Holmes the magician murder his mother. 

Clark’s current assignment is to look into amoral avarice fakes taking advantage of those grieving their losses by offering a last chance to communicate with their dearly departed.  Reluctantly he looks into the spiritualists that remind him of his parents.  His first exposé is single mom Widow Lucy Collins; but afterward the charlatan persuades him to let her join him on his task.  They attend a séance hosted by highly regarded medium Lenora Grimes Pastor, who appears genuine until in the middle of the session she dies.  Lucy and Edward investigate her death in which they and other attendees are suspects, and the only one besides the killer who can tell the truth is the victim.

Though ostensibly a Reconstruction Era whodunit, Things Half in Shadows is much more; as Alan Finn also interweaves a seemingly ghost tale with incredible historical detail especially focusing on the mourners and the damaged vets that make this very timely.  The cast is fully developed with many, including the protagonists and the dead medium, concealing secrets.  Though readers will figure out early on what is going on, this is a superb read.

Harriet Klausner

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