Saturday 7 September 2019

BLOG TOUR: A Shadow on the Lens - Sam Hurcom

The Postmaster looked over my shoulder. As I turned to look I saw a flicker of movement from across the street. I felt unseen eyes peer at me. 

He walked away without another word. I watched as he climbed onto his bicycle and sped away down the street. I turned back and looked over my shoulder. 

Someone had been watching us.

1904. Thomas Bexley, one of the first forensic photographers, is called to the sleepy and remote Welsh village of Dinas Powys, several miles down the coast from the thriving port of Cardiff. A young girl by the name of Betsan Tilny has been found murdered in the woodland - her body bound and horribly burnt. But the crime scene appears to have been staged, and worse still: the locals are reluctant to help.

As the strange case unfolds, Thomas senses a growing presence watching him, and try as he may, the villagers seem intent on keeping their secret. Then one night, in the grip of a fever, he develops the photographic plates from the crime scene in a makeshift darkroom in the cellar of his lodgings. There, he finds a face dimly visible in the photographs; a face hovering around the body of the dead girl - the face of Betsan Tilny.

What did I think?

I enjoy reading both historical fiction and crime thrillers so my interest was already piqued when I read the blurb of A Shadow on the Lens.  Then when I read that the book is set in the small Welsh village of Dinas Powys, which is where my maternal great great great grandfather was born in 1827, I just had to read it.  My ancestor had moved to the North East by 1904 (which is when this story is set), maybe leaving brothers and sisters in Dinas Powys, so I was very excited to read a book set in the village he left behind; although no Norris's featured in the story.

It took me a little while to get into the rhythm of the book but the murder of Betsan Tilny is so very intriguing that it keeps the pages turning nicely.  A forensic photographer is summoned to the village to investigate the crime and this was the first oddity to intrigue me - why a photographer and not a police inspector?  It soon becomes clear that the locals want Thomas Bexley to simply take his photos and leave their village without discovering who or what has committed the crime.  Everyone in the village appears to be hiding something so the sooner Thomas is gone the better.  

We take it for granted these days that we take a photo and see it instantly but there's something so very mystical and magical about developing photographs and back in 1904 (only a few years after the Kodak Brownie was introduced) photos were developed on plates in a dark room.  When Thomas develops his photographs he can't believe his eyes as the murder victim appears as a ghostly apparition.  When Thomas is suddenly struck down with a fever and his negatives disappear, he wonders if he imagined it all but he remembers clues from the photographs that he couldn't possibly have known about beforehand.  This puts him in more danger than he could ever have imagined.

I loved the spooky supernatural element to the story which really makes A Shadow on the Lens something different.  Encompassing so many genres means that it will appeal to crime, historical and fantasy readers, which is not something that many books can claim to do.  A Shadow on the Lens is a spooky, goosebumpy, gothic-style historical crime thriller and a fantastic debut from Sam Hurcom.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

About the author:

Sam Hurcom was born in Dinas Powys, South Wales in 1991. He studied Philosophy at Cardiff University, attaining both an undergraduate and master's degree. He has since had several short stories published and has written and illustrated a number of children's books. Sam currently lives in the village he was raised in, close to the woodlands that have always inspired his writing.

A SHADOW ON THE LENS is Sam's debut novel.

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