Desert Isle Keeper
Mind blowing. Addictive. Mesmerizing. All those words describe Paper Ghosts, the newest suspense novel from author Julia Haeberlin. With its unique plot and enigmatic characters, this book is one that pulls the reader in – and doesn’t let them back out till they’ve finished the last page.
They think he was a serial killer. Carl Louis Feldman captured award winning photos with his camera, but it is what this documentary photographer did in his spare time that interests the police. They suspected much – but they proved nothing. He was acquitted in the only case ever brought against him and disappeared for years after. When he reappeared on the side of a Texas highway, he said he couldn’t remember anything, even his own name. DNA and fingerprint tests landed him in a halfway house that handles mentally ill, elderly criminals. The proprietor will tell you that age and sickness have made them no less dangerous.
She’s a woman obsessed. For twelve years our unnamed heroine has devoted herself to the search for her sister Rachel’s killer. As a junior high student, she began keeping photos of all the men she thought might have killed her sister. As a high school student, she brought information she gathered on them to the FBI. As a college student and young adult, she trained her body to prepare it for the physicality needed to go up against brutal, sadistic people. All of it for the moment she faces now.
She claims to be his long-lost daughter when she bribes his keeper to let Carl go on a road trip with her. Ten days, a quick romp to look at the haunting sites in his photos. The same places where other young women disappeared without a trace. A chance to revisit locations that just might jog his memory and enable him to tell her where her sister’s body is buried.
He doesn’t believe she’s his daughter. She doesn’t believe he’s the weak, forgetful man he claims to be. They’re both liars – the only question is, are they both killers?
From the moment our heroine gets into the car with Carl, the suspense ratchets up. Because that man is spooky creepy. There are times when he seems able to walk through walls. No lock seems to hold him in or keep him out. He is clever, manipulative and charming by turns. It appears as though our young vigilante will be no match for him.
She’s determined and strong, though. She’s also clever and adaptive and is quickly learning how to trade blows with this master con. In spite of that, the author does a good job of reminding us that while she is still on the learning curve, Carl has already acquired all the skills he needs to win this game. Through most of the tale I was on the edge of my seat wondering if youth, determination and strength could defeat years of experience.
I was also wondering what in the heck the truth was. The author paints both characters as off–neither is completely sane. They both love weapons, they are master liars, and they both toy with danger strictly for the fun of it. And weirdly enough, in the prey/predator relationship in which they both play each part equally, they find a lot of common ground. Many times, they resemble a student/mentor relationship more than they do adversaries. They make a dynamic duo, even though neither considers them a team. This is what really shines in this novel; this weird, dysfunctional relationship that is oddly appealing while being completely chilling.
The setup is a bit far-fetched but once the reader enters the world of Paper Ghosts, it’s easy to forget that. Lyrical, atmospheric, haunting, suspenseful and riveting, this book is a must buy for fans of the suspense genre.