Things Half in Shadow by Alan Finn

Things Half in ShadowThings Half in Shadow by Alan Finn (December 30, Gallery Books)

The year is 1869, and the Civil War haunts the city of Philadelphia like a stubborn ghost. Mothers in black continue to mourn their lost sons. Photographs of the dead adorn dim sitting rooms. Maimed and broken men roam the streets. One of those men is Edward Clark, who is still tormented by what he saw during the war. Also constantly in his thoughts is another, more distant tragedy—the murder of his mother at the hands of his father, the famed magician Magellan Holmes…a crime that Edward witnessed when he was only ten.

Now a crime reporter for one of the city’s largest newspapers, Edward is asked to use his knowledge of illusions and visual trickery to expose the influx of mediums that descended on Philadelphia in the wake of the war. His first target is Mrs. Lucy Collins, a young widow who uses old-fashioned sleight of hand to prey on grieving families. Soon, Edward and Lucy become entwined in the murder of Lenora Grimes Pastor, the city’s most highly regarded—and by all accounts, legitimate—medium, who dies mid-séance. With their reputations and livelihoods at risk, Edward and Lucy set out to find the real killer, and in the process unearth a terrifying hive of secrets that reaches well beyond Mrs. Pastor.

Reporter Edward Clark tries to forget his past, but he cannot deny that it has given him a very specific skill set. These talents come in handy when Edward’s editor tasks him with an undercover job debunking the mediums that have sprung up in the years following get the Civil War. When one of the mediums he is investigating dies during a séance, Edward must find the real murderer to clear his name. Finn’s thriller is rich with historical detail, a compelling and realistic main character, and a plot full of incredibly satisfying twists and turns.—Jen Karsbaek, Devourer of Books