I am an absolute sucker for a mystery, but a historical mystery with supernatural tendencies is pretty much one of my gold standards.
So I was delighted to be asked to take part in the blog tour for A Shadow On The Lens, the debut novel of Sam Hurcom. And what a debut it is!
Many thanks go to Tracy Fenton @Compulsive Readers for the opportunity to get stuck into this intriguing book.
So where to begin..
Well the year is 1904 and our narrator, pioneering forensic photographer and police investigator, Thomas Bexley is on his way to rural Wales. Here in a remote village a young girl, Betsan has been found murdered. Her body is abandoned in the local woods, wrapped in chains and burnt.
Yet, despite the grisly nature of the crime Bexley is unfazed. An experienced professional, he approaches his task in a calm and methodical manner. Thomas Bexley is a man of the world, not given to sentiment and possessing of the arrogance of a man in control.
Which makes what happens next all the more unsettling and, I won’t lie dear readers, at times down right terrifying!!
From the moment Bexley arrives in the village it is clear that things are not what seem or indeed should be. Met by Robert Cummings, head of the local council, Thomas is quickly made aware that his presence is resented. Locals are reluctant to talk to him, his accommodation is mean and no one is expecting him to stay around for long.
It is also clear that an air of distaste surrounds the young victim. Betsan was not well respected or even liked within the village. Cummings and his young Constable have her marked as promiscuous, her end inevitable and most likely the work of travellers who have conveniently moved on.
But Thomas is not so quick to judge and sets about conducting a thorough investigation, one that quickly throws up a host of questions and few answers.
Why for example did Betsan and her mother, live in a hovel on the edges of the village?How can the scorch marks at the murder site still be warm hours, even days after the body’s removal? And why is the body being kept away from the village in a church cellar in a remote hamlet, a place that has been deserted by it’s inhabitants? And what role does the memory stricken Colonel and Lord of the Manor have to play in all this?
Bexley’s investigation is further impeded by the fact that the locals believe the death is the work of an evil spirit, they believe inhabits the woodland.
Determine to brush such concerns aside Thomas attempts to forge ahead with his investigation, but are the villagers fears unfounded? As his initial ease grows Bexley finds himself in the grip of a sudden and unexplained fever. Discomfort turns to terror and the boundaries of reality and supernatural are twisted beyond recognition.
Hurcom’s employment of the unreliable narrator, losing himself and his way before our very eyes leads the reader into a dark maze of tangled truths and buried mysteries. Are the terrible visions and unexplained noises, due to Bexley’s malady or something more sinister?
There is a pervading air of madness running throughout the plot. Hurcom has created a cast of characters where no one seem entirely in possession of their wits and the truth is increasingly hard to pin down. And as with all truly great ghost stories the weather plays it’s part. One great storm rages, a storm that recks havoc with the minds and bodies of the story inhabitants, isolating and increasing levels of fear.
The plotting is perfect, a short time frame means that the action moves along at a lick and the pages keep turning. The tale twists and turns in it’s way to discover what truly happened to the unfortunate victim. Hurcom lays many a false trail and leaves you questioning every detail to the last line of the book.
A Shadow On the Lens is a deliciously dark tale combining crime and supernatural happenings. It has all the right ingredients for a truly gothic story; inclement weather, long held myths, terrified locals and a remote location.
And of course a twist…
And there is more…
If you want hear more about this book check out the rest of the blog tour. Details below…