By: Alan Finn
Publisher: Gallery Books, A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Publication Date: December 2014
Reviewed by: Charline Ratcliff
Date: December 31, 2014
I was uncertain what to expect when I agreed to read Things Half In Shadow by Alan Finn. Yes, of course I'd read the book’s Amazon ‘about’ blurb, but that only seemed to make the book a bit more ‘mysterious’ and thereby more challenging to categorize into one specific genre. Having also noticed that Things Half In Shadow was 400 plus pages long, I certainly hoped that it would at least be an interesting read – and thankfully, it did not disappoint.
From the very first paragraph of the Foreword, I was captivated. Finn has written this tale in the first person (a style that I sincerely enjoy) and I truly loved the manner in which he shared the story – using verbiage and mannerisms that made me feel as if I really was in a previous century. Things Half In Shadow is fiction, yet, as I read, Edward Clark, the book's main character explained (via the Foreword) that this recounting is, in fact, truth. Clark’s granddaughter, Isabel, has a deep-seated interest in the macabre (and other-worldly), so when she learned that her grandfather had personal experience with a ghostly murder she requested that he write his account down for posterity’s sake.
Once readers finish the Foreword, they will turn the page and meet a much younger Edward Clark from 1869. At this stage of Clark’s life, he’s a respected crime reporter for the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin – and on this particular April morning, Clark was unceremoniously roused from his slumber at five o’clock and escorted by a policeman to the city’s waterfront. The body of a young woman had just been pulled out of the Delaware River and the police need the Evening Bulletin readers’ help to identify her.
William Barclay (a Police Investigator, but also Clark's friend), is labeling this death as an accidental drowning. However, Clark (having seen his fair share of drowning victims) feels that this woman does not visually show any of the signs needed to warrant a death by drowning conclusion. No purpling skin due to lack of oxygen, no bloating of the body – in fact, the woman’s expression is so peaceful that she looks as though she could have passed in her sleep.
This debate between Clark and Barclay is interrupted though when an older woman and her younger daughter push their way past the police barrier. Sadly, they are able to identify the deceased woman as their missing sister/daughter. And with that revelation, this case is closed so to speak and Clark trudges off to the paper.
Once there, his editor corners him with a very unfavorable-to-Clark assignment – visit the homes of local mediums; participate in their séances and then write a weekly article debunking the myth and proving that each medium he visits is a fraud. This is certainly not Clark's cup of tea – he is after all a well-known and respected crime writer, but his editor will not let him off the hook so easily. Clark must at least give the proposed assignment some sincere thought first.
At this point I’ll stop with the book's summation as I really don't want to ruin the reader's journey of discovery. I’ll just state that Things Half In Shadow was a grippingly-good read. Finn has a wonderful writing style and he certainly managed to portray the feel of 1869 accurately. The plot, scenes and characters were exceptionally believable and at times I almost felt as though I was reading one of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories.
Quill says: Things Half In Shadow has it all: murder, mystery and intrigue – with a smattering of some ghostly other-world thrown in for good measure! A fantastic tale and an author we’re looking forward to reading more from in the future. Five stars, and certainly deserving of each one.