Publisher: Ballantine Books, Reprint edition (May, 2019,
Kindle edition: $17
Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel
Grace was twelve when her sister Rachel hopped on her bike and rode off into oblivion. Rachel was nineteen, brave, funny, outgoing: everything Grace was not. Rachel was her rock; without her, Grace was on shaky ground.
Grace dedicated her life to tracking down her sister’s abductor. For twelve long years she researched cases of other missing young women, delved into the lives of serial killers, examined hundreds of pages of court documents, interviewed witnesses and survivors. She badgered and stalked anyone who might have answers, hoping to trigger memories or confessions. She finally found the man she was looking for in a rundown halfway house for violent criminals who’d succumbed to the ravages of dementia.
Carl Louis Feldman was an internationally acclaimed documentarian and photographer who was suspected of leaving a trail of dead and missing women across Texas. He was charged for only one crime, the murder of a woman in Waco, but the DNA evidence recovered was insufficient to convict him. Her body was recovered under a bridge, near an enigmatic iron cross. A photo of that same cross was among the photographs in Feldman’s international best seller, Time Travel. Most of the photos were artistic, haunting, portraits of young women. Many of the women were missing or dead, and Carl was the main suspect.
Now, he is wasting away in Mrs. T’s boarding house for violent criminals now subdued by dementia. Carl claims to have no memory of what he had done, but Grace suspects that might not be the case. She attempts to ingratiate herself to him, telling him that she was his daughter. She had to know, she said, what he had done, what kind of tainted blood she might pass on to her future children. She’s aware that Carl doesn’t really believe her, but he goes along so that he can escape the gloomy house and take a road trip with her. She hopes that retracing his steps to the locations where some of his supposed victims were photographed might bring back memories.
Grace is a little concerned about being in such close quarters with a serial killer for several days. He’s still a strong man, and the memories of his murderous past may not be as forgotten as he claims. Still, if taking the chance brings her the answer to Rachel’s fate, she’ll take the chance. And she does have a handgun—if she can keep him from taking it away.
By the end of the road, the two oddly-matched travelers have developed a symbiotic and empathetic bond. Although she sometimes doubts his sincerity, he does, in the end, play fair. He has a couple of surprises for her that will both shock and please her, changing her life dramatically .
PAPER GHOST is a haunting, bone-chilling story. The reader may be hesitant to turn the page in fear of what happens next, while at the same eager to see what lies ahead. The writing is beautiful, at times lyrical. The plot is never predictable, but always satisfying. The characters, especially Grace and Carl, are finely crafted and three-dimensional. Their waltz across Texas is both a geographic and psychological journey, full of wonder and terror and nail-biting tension. Highly recommended.
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