Released: 5th September 2019
Genre: Crime thriller / paranormal / historical fiction
The Postmaster looked over my shoulder. As I turned to look I saw a flicker of movement from across the street. I felt unseen eyes peer at me.
He walked away without another word. I watched as he climbed onto his bicycle and sped away down the street. I turned back and looked over my shoulder.
Someone had been watching us.
1904. Thomas Bexley, one of the first forensic photographers, is called to the sleepy and remote Welsh village of Dinas Powys, several miles down the coast from the thriving port of Cardiff. A young girl by the name of Betsan Tilny has been found murdered in the woodland - her body bound and horribly burnt. But the crime scene appears to have been staged, and worse still: the locals are reluctant to help.
As the strange case unfolds, Thomas senses a growing presence watching him, and try as he may, the villagers seem intent on keeping their secret. Then one night, in the grip of a fever, he develops the photographic plates from the crime scene in a makeshift darkroom in the cellar of his lodgings. There, he finds a face dimly visible in the photographs; a face hovering around the body of the dead girl - the face of Betsan Tilny.
I don't often read historical fiction, but the blurb of this was so intriguing and mysterious, I couldn't resist.
We follow Tomas, a forensic photographer, as he travels to a small Welsh village to help investigate and photograph evidence for a brutal murder. In a blend of gothic suspense, mystery and horror - all wrapped up with a quaint but intricate historical bow - the author draws us into this compelling story with an unreliable narrator. Tomas becomes ill whilst investigating but refuses to rest as his suspicions of the townsfolk interweave and confuse him. I always love a thriller with an unreliable narrator, where I'm trying to work things out before they can. The complexities of the storyline with this novel though were so well thought out that I was learning alongside Tomas rather than second guessing him. The other characters, though well developed, were slightly alienated as we were seeing them through an outsider's point of view through our main character. This made for an almost hypnotic effect as the plot drove towards the end.
The atmosphere is tense, palpable and wonderfully gothic as the plot twists and turns through the pages. This novel didn't disappoint and I look forward to seeing what Sam comes out with next.
Thanks to Tracy Fenton for inviting me onto this blog tour. Thanks also to Sam Hurcom and Orion for sending me a copy for review. I'd definitely recommend this if you enjoy dark, historical mysteries. It's made me think about delving more into the genre myself.