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Publisher's Summary

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?   

"A rich hybrid work that's at once...a murder mystery, a road novel, a pair of psychological case studies and a meditation on photography." [The Sunday Times (UK), Thriller of the Month]

An obsessive young woman has been waiting half her life - since she was 12 years old - for this moment. She has planned. Researched. Trained. Imagined every scenario. Now she is almost certain the man who kidnapped and murdered her sister sits in the passenger seat beside her.

Carl Louis Feldman is a documentary photographer who may or may not have dementia - and may or may not be a serial killer. The young woman claims to be his long-lost daughter. He doesn't believe her. He claims no memory of murdering girls across Texas, in a string of places where he shot eerie pictures. She doesn't believe him.

Determined to find the truth, she lures him out of a halfway house and proposes a dangerous idea: a 10-day road trip, just the two of them, 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? In Paper Ghosts, Julia Heaberlin once again swerves the serial killer genre in a new direction. You won't see the final, terrifying twist spinning your way until the very last mile.

"You'll enjoy the journey and all its macabre side trips. You'll love the travel commentary written in Heaberlin's lean, muscular prose.... Signposts along the way warn of angst, secrets and deadly plot twists, but you'll never see what's coming. You'll step out of this fictional vehicle feeling like you've been T-boned by an 18-wheeler." (The Washington Post)

©2018 Julia Heaberlin (P)2018 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"A rich hybrid work that's at once a zany, dialogue-propelled two-hander, a murder mystery, a road novel, a pair of psychological case studies and a meditation on photography. It would make a fine indie movie, although screen adaptation would entail sacrificing Heaberlin's evocative prose." [The Sunday Times (UK)]

"I kept thinking of [Patricia] Highsmith while reading Paper Ghosts.... [Julia] Heaberlin anchors her books with troubled but endearingly badass women.... Like Highsmith, Heaberlin displays a keen grasp of casual cruelty that defines human interaction, not to mention a flair for stories in which no one - least of all the protagonist - can be trusted.... Texas has yet again bred a major American noir writer." (D Magazine)

"[An] artful and elegiac psychological thriller... Heaberlin brilliantly combines travelogue with a heartbreaking portrait of the damage done by childhood.... [She] wields words like weapons, with each one chosen to heighten tension, underscore emotion, or foreshadow doom." (Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

Could not figure out

Listen for over 2 hours and did not know what she was doing. Very boring

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Kind of implausible

I chose Paper Ghosts by Julia Heaberlin as my most recent listen on Audible because I really liked another of her books, Black-Eyed Susans, which was a four star read for me. The audiobook is narrated very well by Catherine Taber, and is 10 hours 2 minutes long.
This one was only a three star listen for me. I had higher hopes, but while the writing is well crafted with great imagery in many spots, the story dragged on and was boring at times. I didn’t hate it and I didn’t stop in the middle, but it never really grabbed me.
Briefly, the story is about a young woman whose sister disappeared without a trace several years prior. She has devoted years to tracking the man she believes is responsible for not only her sister's presumed murder but several those of several other women, and she locates the him – now in early stage dementia – in a Texas care home. She poses as his daughter, checks him out of the facility, and takes him on a road trip across Texas hoping to get a confession, and maybe even find her sister’s remains. I felt like I was watching that commercial where the people are being chased and they say, “Let’s hide in the shed behind the chain saws!” While it is a suspense novel, I just couldn’t see the main character's vigilante approach as something that a person would really do, so the story line was just a stretch.
As I mentioned, the narration was good, but I just wasn’t ever engaged by the story, or the communication between the main characters.

*I've only listened to this book once, and I can't figure out why Goodreads thinks I've read it twice. Once was enough for me.

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

The last few chapters were good

I listen to this entire book although I have to say I wanted to stop quite a few times. I don’t exactly know why but it was just so boring It couldn’t hold my interest. I did like the last few chapters but I don’t know if the last few chapters were good enough to make up for a slow book.
A note about the narration it was spot on really really good - the narration is probably why I kept listening to this book.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Paper Ghost

So good! I have read all of Julia’s books. This is the best one yet. The characters work so well and her attention to detail weaves a wonderful story.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Sisters

Intriguing listen, great characters. Made me think about my sister a lot. Worth the credit!

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    1 out of 5 stars
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Ugh So Disappointed!

That's literally 10hrs of my life I can't get back, I was truly disappointed with this novel, and don't recommend using a credit for it. I hate giving bad reviews which is why 99% of the time I don't because I have such a deep love and respect for writers that I feel its a betrayal in some way but truth is truth, this novel was terrible. Her previous book Black-Eyed Susans was a decent story and I enjoyed reading it but not this one. The best part of the book besides the great narration, was in the last 5 minutes, I actually did enjoy the " prologue" even though it wasn't labeled that, its basically what it was. Well that's my thoughts, and how I feel. Happy Reading To You All!!!

2 of 4 people found this review helpful