A woman takes a road trip across Texas with an elderly man with dementia, hoping to awaken secrets about the death of her sister, whom she believes the man murdered despite being acquitted for the crime.
Paper Ghosts, a title referring in large part to the images in Carl’s haunting photos, works on multiple levels. It’s an effective thriller, but it’s also a deep look at obsession and the destructive nature of grief—as well as a creepy-as-hell tour of some of the oddest places in Texas. Heaberlin’s prose, at times, approaches a kind of gritty poetry as she takes readers on a very unusual murder mystery tour with a very unusual narrator. If you think you know where this one is going, you’ll need to check those expectations at the door. Set aside some time for this one because you won’t want to put it down.
Texas author Julia Heaberlin writes poetically about the geographic enormity of the Lone Star State, marveling at its 'monotonous, beautiful solitude.' Like many writers before her, she is in thrall to its atmosphere and the desolation one can feel driving through the vast empty spaces that separate its small towns and modern cities. This makes for a perfect setting for a gritty road-trip novel like Heaberlin’s Paper Ghosts ... If you can buy into the premise that the narrator is so desperate to solve her sister’s disappearance that she puts her own life in danger by hitting the road with a suspected killer, you’ll enjoy the journey and all its macabre side trips ... You’ll step out of this fictional vehicle feeling like you’ve been T-boned by an 18-wheeler.
Though not quite the tense, dark suspense novel I had expected it to be, Paper Ghosts nonetheless delivers intrigue and raises compelling questions surrounding memory, guilt, and the intersection of the two. A strong addition to the spring reading list of those looking for an atypical take on the serial killer novel ... There’s much to enjoy in Paper Ghosts but I would caution that the pacing of this book can be uneven at times. Again, Heaberlin’s willingness to experiment with genre standards is totally to her credit, but readers expecting a full-steam-ahead serial killer thriller will find themselves disappointed in the pacing here.