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  • Writer's pictureClay Anderson

Book Review of Paper Ghosts by Julia Heaberlin

Julia Heaberlin's Paper Ghosts is a captivating and unconventional psychological thriller that takes readers on a suspenseful road trip through Texas. The novel follows an unnamed young woman who convinces Carl Louis Feldman, a suspected serial killer with dementia, to accompany her on a journey to revisit the sites of his alleged crimes.


The story's premise is undoubtedly unique and requires some suspension of disbelief. Heaberlin crafts a slow-burning narrative that blends elements of suspense, mystery, and character study. The protagonist's obsessive quest for answers about her sister's disappearance drives the plot, creating a tense and unpredictable atmosphere throughout the novel.


One of the book's strengths lies in its vivid portrayal of Texas. Heaberlin's love for the state shines through in her detailed descriptions of various locations, making the setting an integral part of the story. The author's background as a journalist is evident in her attention to detail and her ability to weave true crime elements into the fictional narrative.


The character development in Paper Ghosts is particularly noteworthy. The dynamic between the young woman and Carl Louis Feldman is complex and evolving, keeping readers guessing about their true motivations and the nature of their relationship. Heaberlin skillfully blurs the lines between victim and perpetrator, challenging readers' perceptions and expectations.


While the pacing of the novel can be uneven at times, with flashbacks and circuitous explanations slowing down the narrative, the overall journey remains engaging. The book's structure mirrors the winding roads the characters travel, both literally and metaphorically.


The novel's conclusion has received mixed reactions from readers. Some find it satisfying and unexpected, while others feel it leaves too many questions unanswered. This ambiguity may be frustrating for those seeking clear-cut resolutions but adds to the book's thought-provoking nature.


Paper Ghosts stands out for its exploration of themes such as memory, obsession, and the lasting impact of trauma. Heaberlin's prose is sharp and evocative, particularly in her depiction of the psychological toll of unsolved crimes and the effects of dementia.


In conclusion, Paper Ghosts is a compelling and unconventional thriller that will appeal to readers who enjoy character-driven suspense with a strong sense of place. While it may not satisfy those looking for a straightforward, fast-paced thriller, it offers a unique and immersive reading experience that lingers in the mind long after the final page.

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