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Thursday, January 4, 2018

REVIEW: Paper Ghosts by Julia Heaberlin @randomhouse @juliathrillers

Paper Ghosts
by Julia Heaberlin

From the International Bestselling Author of Black-Eyed Susans, comes her latest thriller, Paper Ghosts... where a man may or may not have dementia and may or may not be a serial killer.

Thank you to Ballantine Books for this amazing copy.  It's my honor to give my honest review.

Publisher:  Ballantine Books
Published:  May 15, 2018
368 Pages
Genres:  Thriller, Suspense, Mystery, Fiction

Goodreads Synopsis:

For fans of Laura Lippman and Gillian Flynn comes an electrifying novel of stunning psychological suspense.I am the star of screaming headlines and campfire ghost stories.
I am one of the four Black-Eyed Susans.
The lucky one.
As a sixteen-year-old, Tessa Cartwright was found in a Texas field, barely alive amid a scattering of bones, with only fragments of memory as to how she got there. Ever since, the press has pursued her as the lone surviving “Black-Eyed Susan,” the nickname given to the murder victims because of the yellow carpet of wildflowers that flourished above their shared grave. Tessa’s testimony about those tragic hours put a man on death row.
Now, almost two decades later, Tessa is an artist and single mother. In the desolate cold of February, she is shocked to discover a freshly planted patch of black-eyed susans—a summertime bloom—just outside her bedroom window. Terrified at the implications—that she sent the wrong man to prison and the real killer remains at large—Tessa turns to the lawyers working to exonerate the man awaiting execution. But the flowers alone are not proof enough, and the forensic investigation of the still-unidentified bones is progressing too slowly. An innocent life hangs in the balance. The legal team appeals to Tessa to undergo hypnosis to retrieve lost memories—and to share the drawings she produced as part of an experimental therapy shortly after her rescue.
What they don’t know is that Tessa and the scared, fragile girl she was have built a  fortress of secrets. As the clock ticks toward the execution, Tessa fears for her sanity, but even more for the safety of her teenaged daughter. Is a serial killer still roaming free, taunting Tessa with a trail of clues? She has no choice but to confront old ghosts and lingering nightmares to finally discover what really happened that night.
Shocking, intense, and utterly original, Black-Eyed Susans is a dazzling psychological thriller, seamlessly weaving past and present in a searing tale of a young woman whose harrowing memories remain in a field of flowers—as a killer makes a chilling return to his garden.

My Review:

Grace's older sister, Rachel, goes missing, is presumed dead and the person who likely is responsible for this, Carl, has dementia, barely remembers where he is and so is acquitted and put into an assisted-living facility.  Grace spends years training and researching.  Researching all the missing girls that may be tied to Carl.  Training to make sure she can pursue her plan and be aware of any pending situations that may occur. 

Pretending to be his daughter, she takes him cross-country searching for answers.  Hoping various stopping points where women have vanished will jog his memory.  As the trip progresses, she sees moments of lucidity and how he's keen on detail... making her wonder if he's just fooling everyone.  Does he even really have dementia?  Will this game she's playing turn around and bit her in the ass or will she finally get the answers she needs?  

The little things in this book really made an impact for me.  The pictures for each chapter.  The various pages taken out of Grace's survival notebook as she was growing up.  The pictures that Carl took along with the title and photographer's note.  All of these things really brought this book to life and made you feel like you were really in this with Grace.  My favorite part of this book are the interactions between Grace and Carl.  The growth she has as each day passes, dealing with her frustration, Carl's dementia and conditions and her "patience" in waiting for her answers are very human.  

The only thing that did not quite work for me was that it became confusing in certain parts.  At a fairly moderate pace, there were certain parts that almost felt like a record scratch and I would have to rewind and reread to try and wrap my head around what just happened.  I also felt like some of the resolutions that came toward the end were almost too easy.  It's hard to explain fully without giving anything away so I'll just stop here.  However, it is the unreliable narrator that absolutely makes this story and you truly are kept on your toes about what is really going on throughout.

What strikes me the most is the author's portrayal of dementia.  I did some research on this in my study in Social Work back in my bachelors and also did a short volunteer stint at a VA center and was witness to this type of behavior.  Also, as a person who always reads the Acknowledgements at the end of the book, I really enjoyed where the author received her inspiration and the journey she took us on with her.  

Those who love the works of Megan Abbott and Gillian Flynn will love this story.  At a certain point, it stopped being about whether or not Carl was a serial killer or not, but about the relationship that built between him and Grace - no matter how tormented.

3.5 stars for me!

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