A Texas map marked with three red dots like drops of blood. A serial killer who claims to have dementia. A mysterious young woman who wants answers. What could go wrong?
FINALIST FOR THE ITW THRILLER AWARD • “Fast and furious . . . You’ll never see what’s coming.”—The Washington Post
Years ago, her sister Rachel vanished. Now she is almost certain the man who took Rachel sits in the passenger seat beside her. He claims to have dementia and no memory of murdering girls across Texas in a string of places where he shot eerie pictures. To find the truth, she proposes a dangerous idea: a ten-day road trip with a possible serial killer to examine cold cases linked to his haunting photographs. Is he a liar or a broken old man? Is he a pathological con artist—or is she? You won’t see the final, terrifying twist spinning your way until the very last mile.
Praise for Paper Ghosts
“Paper Ghosts is a riveting summer read that shows Texas in a powerfully intimate light.” —The Austin Chronicle
“[An] artful and elegiac psychological thriller . . . riveting.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“[Paper Ghosts] elevates the often tawdry genre of the serial killer novel to a work of art.”—Sunday Express (UK)
“Texas has yet again bred a major American noir writer.”—D Magazine
“[Heaberlin has] developed a distinctive literary voice, one that is on full display in Paper Ghosts.”—Houston Chronicle
“Entertainingly unnerving.”—The Dallas Morning News
“Strong characterisation, haunting images, a wonderful sense of place, and some dark comedy make this travelogue-cum-psychological thriller well worth the read.”—The Guardian
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Julia Heaberlin’s quirky and tense novel builds a sense of foreboding out of abandoned places, desolate backroads, and old pictures. Once a photographer, but now elderly and diagnosed with dementia, Carl Feldman was tried and acquitted for a string of murders. A woman who’s convinced he killed her sister is determined to jog Carl’s memory by driving him through the Texas sites of his supposed crimes. Along the way, the suspense grows and the truth becomes increasingly elusive—we couldn’t decide who was in danger and who was to be feared. Paper Ghosts is an unsettling guessing game that kept us hooked all the way through.
The unnamed 24-year-old narrator of this artful and elegiac psychological thriller set in Texas from Heaberlin (Black-Eyed Susans) has spent every moment since her older sister, Rachel, vanished 12 years earlier investigating what happened. Her primary suspect is 61-year-old documentary photographer Carl Louis Feldman, who was once tried for a girl's murder and whose photos she can link to 10 missing girls; Carl suffers from dementia, though, and claims not to remember his past. Undaunted, the young woman springs the artist from his state-sponsored halfway house by posing as his long-lost daughter and takes him on a road trip designed to unlock his secrets and bring closure to his victims' families, which offers some surprisingly comic moments. The author wields words like weapons, with each one chosen to heighten tension, underscore emotion, or foreshadow doom. Keen character work further distinguishes the tale; neither Carl nor the narrator is entirely good, reliable, or sane, adding texture and profundity to an already riveting relationship. Heaberlin brilliantly combines travelogue with a heartbreaking portrait of the damage done by childhood trauma.
The first book of hers I have read. It has everything you need if you like a story with surprises, suspense. Carl was very interesting, character has both mental and moral qualities, that sick fool.
Slow going and just generally boring.
Audiobook Please! I loved Playing Dead!!!
Please make into an audiobook
I loved Playing Dead!