PAPER GHOSTS - by Julia Heaberlin
Published: April 2018 - Penguin.
Genres: Adult / thriller / mystery / contemporary
Triggers/Content Advisory: Sexual innuendos. Mature themes.
Source: Thank you so much to Penguin Random House SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.
A few months ago I read Black Eyed Susans by Heaberlin and didn't think much of it. But when I saw the synopsis for Paper Ghosts, I couldn't resist. It looked so, so good. And unique.
Heaberlin's writing was the one thing I loved about Black Eyed Susans, and in Paper Ghosts it's equally - if not more - beautiful. The descriptions are palpable with some deliciously unique metaphors and similes (eg: "A faint slice of light spills like bleach..." ); the dialogue is biting and realistic; and Heaberlin's real genius lies in how specific her language is. Her scenes come to life because she takes them in with every sense she has. She delves into the tiny details, and she's vigilant of every necessary prop. The scenes are so fleshed out because she pays attention. It's incredible. It's incredible, without boring you.
Like her descriptions, Heaberlin's story is concrete. It's tirelessly researched, and again, Heaberlin proves that detail matters. Her story becomes three-dimensional because she digs into the scene. She's has crafted a mesmerising world - she's peeled away the superficial and heightened what we subconsciously know is there, but have never noticed.
The plot is slow. Don't expect bloodcurdling action or scream worthy twists, because you'll be disappointed. The mystery is breathtakingly clever, but its twists aren't always obvious and its climax isn't horrifying. It's understated. It's severely intelligent, but it's not altogether shocking.
I admit I was bored for a lot of the book. Only around page 200 did I start loving it, and from then on I definitely felt more invested. So yes, it may take a while for you to get into the story, but it doesn't mean you aren't reading quality from start to finish. At the end of it all, you'll probably find yourself deeply appreciating the book. I loved it by the end.
The characters, including the unnamed heroine (we only learn her name towards the end of the story) are unreliable. This makes for fantastic suspense and unsettling company. Carl is a messed-up creep, but there's something mysterious about him. The heroine is a woman burdened by her sister's disappearance, but she's also rather unhinged. I ended up loving her and her arc.
Paper Ghosts is as sinister as the title implies. It's a slow, unique, and steadily disturbing thriller with unnerving characters, exquisitely penned by an extremely talented author.